Opposing Voices From North Dakota Pipeline Meet To Curb Clashes In North Dakota the Army Corps of Engineers met with Native American leader hoping to avoid more confrontations between police and Dakota Access Pipeline protesters.

Opposing Voices From North Dakota Pipeline Meet To Curb Clashes

Opposing Voices From North Dakota Pipeline Meet To Curb Clashes

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In North Dakota the Army Corps of Engineers met with Native American leader hoping to avoid more confrontations between police and Dakota Access Pipeline protesters.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Protests against the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline continue along with periodic clashes between police and demonstrators. This week, President Obama said the Army Corps of Engineers may reroute the pipeline. As NPR's Jeff Brady reports, the Corps also met with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to try and avoid future confrontations with protesters.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: At the main protest camp about 40 miles south of Bismarck along the Missouri River, announcements blare from a loudspeaker throughout the day.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Relatives, this red van is the one that has all your sacred items - whatever was left up there.

BRADY: Across a dusty road, there's a U-Haul truck. It was filled with protesters' belongings that were removed last week from a site along the planned pipeline route. Now all that stuff is on the ground. And Lolly Bee is sifting through it.

LOLLY BEE: Huge piles of sleeping bags and blankets and clothing and purses and sleeping pads and teepee canvases.

BRADY: Bee is looking for her clothes and a blue sleeping bag.

BEE: Day after day after day, we were warned of being raided. But, like, we never knew when it was going to happen. So we just kept settling in. And when it actually came, a lot of people didn't have time to move their stuff out.

BRADY: This week, there was another clash as a group of protesters tried to build a plywood bridge across a creek to access the construction site again. Other protesters waded into the water and shouted at the line of officers in protective gear on the other bank.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Your paychecks come from our tax dollars - out of our paychecks.

BRADY: The pipeline protesters appear to have a strategy of provoking confrontations with police, which helps bring more attention to their cause. And this week, they got just that when police used force and pepper spray to push them back. Demonstrators have criticized the Army Corps of Engineers for asking the local sheriff's department for help.

On Thursday evening, Native American leaders met with the Corps to discuss protester safety. As Col. John Henderson walked out from that meeting wearing a green camouflage uniform, a group of Native American women confronted him.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Our people are getting roughed up. And you have blood on your hands.

BRADY: One woman told the colonel she was injured while standing in the road singing.

JOHN HENDERSON: It's very unfortunate that anybody got hurt out there. That was never the intent. The intent is to prevent any further injury.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You gave them permission to kill us.

HENDERSON: No I didn't give any permission...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yes, you did.

HENDERSON: No.

BRADY: To be clear, there have been no reports of deaths associated with demonstrations or clashes with police. Henderson spent at least three hours talking with tribal leaders from around the region.

HENDERSON: My sole reason for being here today is to ensure that we don't have further clashes between law enforcement and demonstrators and construction-site workers.

BRADY: Many of the protesters are camped on land that the Army Corps manages. But the agency allows that for now, staking out only the pipeline construction area as off-limits. Standing Rock Sioux chairman Dave Archambault II says his safety conversation with Henderson went beyond just concerns about police-protester interactions.

DAVE ARCHAMBAULT II: We also talked about the future. What is that going to hold, as far as when the winter comes? And how are we going to prepare if people are staying for a long time?

BRADY: Archambault says the tribe is working on that. He says President Obama's announcement that the Corps may reroute the pipeline didn't come up at this meeting. The Corps says it's exploring options and won't speculate on outcomes. Meantime - protesters say they're here to stay. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Bismarck, N.D.

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Protesters, Police Still Clashing Over Disputed North Dakota Pipeline

Protesters, Police Still Clashing Over Disputed North Dakota Pipeline

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(Top) Gregory Schaffer holds up a mirror to "show the police how they look" while protesting in the Cannonball River. (Left) Protesters wade into the Cannonball River as others (right) pray and hold flags while marching across a wood pedestrian bridge across a creek north of the main protest camp. Emily Kask for NPR hide caption

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Police used pepper spray and what they called nonlethal ammunition to remove Dakota Access Pipeline protesters from federal land Wednesday. Demonstrators say they were trying to occupy land just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation where construction of the controversial pipeline is scheduled.

This was the first significant clash between law enforcement and protesters since demonstrations turned violent last week and more than 100 people were arrested.

According to the Morton County, N.D., Sheriff's Department, a group of people began building a wood pedestrian bridge across a creek north of the main protest camp early Wednesday morning. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns the land and had asked law enforcement to remove any protesters who try to reach it.

A man stands on a makeshift bridge over the Cannonball River while police officers stand on the opposite shore. Stephanie Keith/Reuters hide caption

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Stephanie Keith/Reuters

A man stands on a makeshift bridge over the Cannonball River while police officers stand on the opposite shore.

Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Officers in boats pulled the makeshift bridge apart and warned protesters they would be arrested if they continued to trespass. After a several-hour standoff with police, protesters dispersed and returned to their main camp.

During the standoff, a few protesters watched from across the nearby Cannonball River. They waded into the water — some chest-deep — to shout support for colleagues closer to officers.

"I decided to get into the river and just be a presence there," says Stephanie Jasper of Tampa Bay, Fla. She watched as law enforcement pushed protesters back toward the main camp, and says she saw officers use pepper spray. She says it was a chaotic sight as a police helicopter hovered overhead.

Stephanie Jasper holds up her fist and yells while protesting in the Cannonball River during a standoff with police at Turtle Island, north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Emily Kask for NPR hide caption

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Several protesters standing in the river held mirrors directed at law enforcement officers lined up on the other side and at police on the river in boats.

"Everybody was just sharing love to these officers and explaining why it is we're here and questioning why they were," says Jasper.

One law enforcement official had a very different view of the protest. "In my 27 years in law enforcement, I have never seen such an absolute disregard for the law or other people's rights because of someone else's ideology," said Cass County, N.D., Sheriff Paul Laney.

Samantha Putchit Echumblee, 5, of Greenville, Tenn., hugs her mother, Audrie Ellen, during protests at the river. Emily Kask for NPR hide caption

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Emily Kask for NPR

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says the Dakota Access Pipeline construction route crosses land that is sacred to its members. And the tribe worries a pipeline spill could pollute local water. The tribe wants the federal government to stop work on the pipeline and conduct a full environmental impact study of the pipeline.

The Morton County Sheriff's Department says one person was arrested for "conspiracy to commit obstruction of a government function." In a press release, the agency says the protester was buying canoes and kayaks for others to cross the creek.