- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2016

Hundreds of Dakota Access pipeline protesters set a dozen fires near a bridge and hurled rocks at police early Monday, while officers countered with tear gas in the latest standoff over the hotly contested project.

One officer was hit on the head with a rock during the rioting, which began Sunday evening and spilled past midnight as law enforcement attempted to stop about 400 protesters from crossing the closed Backwater Bridge and head north on Highway 1806 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

“Law enforcement officers had rocks thrown at them, burning logs and rocks, shots from slingshots,” the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said in an early Monday statement.

The rioting began after protesters tried to remove a burned vehicle from the bridge, which was closed and blocked after being damaged by protesters during an Oct. 27 melee that resulted in more than 140 arrests.

Outraged protesters accused law enforcement of injuring hundreds of the “water protectors,” who are trying to halt the 1,172-mile pipeline now nearing completion, and called for a week of action against banks and law enforcement starting Friday.

“In wake of the events from last night, we are calling for a Week of Solidarity Actions starting November 25th, culminating with a Global Day of Action on December 1st,” said a Monday statement on the Sacred Stone Camp’s Facebook page. “The main targets are the banks funding the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Sheriff Departments who have been brought in to Standing Rock to brutalize water protectors.”

SEE ALSO: North Dakota draws Iraq comparison as pipeline protests rage

The camp said activists used a semi-truck to remove the burned vehicles chained to concrete on the bridge to “improve access to the camp for emergency services.”

“Hundreds of water protectors were injured at the Standing Rock encampments when law enforcement blasted them with water cannons in freezing temperatures Sunday evening,” the statement read.

The sheriff’s department said the Mandan and Bismarck rural fire departments were called to put out the fires started by protesters, and that officers countered with “less-than-lethal” force against the crowd, including tear gas.

“Officers on the scene are describing protesters’ actions as very aggressive,” the sheriff’s statement read. “Protesters have also engaged in organized tactical movement and attempted to flank and attack the law enforcement line from the west. In order to keep protesters from crossing the bridge, law enforcement have utilized less-than-lethal means, including launching CS gas.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers withdrew and then delayed a previously issued permit for the pipeline in response to objections from the Standing Rock Sioux, which has called for nixing the project over concerns about water quality and historic relics.

Pipeline supporters have argued that the corps engaged in hundreds of consultations with 55 tribes before approving the project in July, and have accused the Obama administration of bowing to political pressure from the tribe and environmentalists.

The dispute centers on a 1,100-foot stretch at the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, the final segment before the $3.8 billion pipeline is complete in North Dakota.

The four-state pipeline, which runs a half-mile from the Standing Rock reservation at its closest point, is 84 percent complete.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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