Authorities defend use of water spray in below-freezing temps against Dakota Access pipeline protesters
NORTH DAKOTA -- Authorities say the use of water spray in below-freezing temperatures against Dakota Access oil pipeline protesters was necessary, and they won't rule out doing it again.
Authorities used the tactic during a skirmish with protesters overnight in southern North Dakota.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said authorities used fire hoses to repel aggressive protesters who were throwing objects including rocks, asphalt and water bottles at officers. One officer was hit in the head.
The human rights organization Amnesty International and other groups have denounced officers' use of water when temperatures were in the 20s.
Dallas Goldtooth with the Indigenous Environmental Network says at least 17 protesters were taken to hospitals, some with hypothermia.
Mandan Police Chief Jason Ziegler says authorities won't rule out using water again if it's deemed necessary.
Another potential clash between protesters and law officers over a disputed bridge in southern North Dakota Monday afternoon, November 21st eased.
The bridge on state Highway 1806 is near the protesters' main camp.
It's been shut down for weeks because authorities say it might be unsafe due to earlier fires set by protesters.
Protesters say the closed bridge blocks emergency services and their access to pipeline construction sites.
The two sides clashed overnight, with officers using tear gas, rubber bullets and water sprays against protesters they say assaulted officers with rocks and burning logs.
Protesters and police massed at the bridge again Monday morning.
Protesters went back to the camp Monday afternoon at the request of Standing Rock Sioux elders, after reports of firearms in the crowd.
North Dakota's state Capitol building was on "soft lockdown" Monday afternoon due to protests.
The doors were locked, but members of the public were being granted access if they had legitimate business.
The Highway Patrol provides security for the Capitol.
Lt. Tom Iverson said the soft lockdown was put in place Monday due to protesters being in the Bismarck area.
They've previously demonstrated at the Capitol.
A small group of protesters briefly blocked traffic in downtown Bismarck on Monday morning.
Meanwhile, on Monday, The Army Corps of Engineers and the company developing the Dakota Access pipeline argued in court over whether the Corps granted a critical easement for the project.
Energy Transfer Partners said in a filing Sunday that the Corps granted an easement in July for its pipeline to go under Lake Oahe in southern North Dakota. The company said the Corps said several times that approval was complete and the easement signed.
The company asked a federal judge to allow it to move ahead over the federal government's opposition.
The Corps disagreed in its own filing Friday, saying an easement decision hasn't been made.
The Standing Rock Sioux and other groups have demonstrated against the four-state, thousand-mile pipeline for months.