CANNON BALL, N.D. - Another confrontation between demonstrators against the Dakota Access Pipeline and law enforcement happened Wednesday on the banks of Cantapeta Creek.
The conflict started Wednesday morning when officers saw a group of demonstrators building a wooden bridge on the water.
The Morton County Sheriff's Department says the purpose of the water crossing was to gain illegal access to the Cannon Ball Ranch. A protester tells us demonstrators were holding a water ceremony and protecting a grave site.
Authorities say they instructed protesters to leave the bridge and not cross because the Cannon Ball Ranch is private property. They say people continued to cross over to the land by swimming and using boats.
Camp spokesperson Joye Braun says the land is not private, and the bridge's purpose was to move people to the ceremony safely.
The Morton County Sheriff's Department says The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ordered them to remove the bridge told them to arrest those who crossed for criminal trespass.
Law enforcement arrested one individual who was aiding in illegal activity by purchasing canoes and kayaks to be used for crossing the waterway. He was arrested for conspiracy to commit obstruction of a government function.
"Receiving permission and precise guidance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was uplifting today. This simple message gave a clear cut order to execute a plan to remove unlawful actors and prevent further unlawful actions. Eighty five days into the protests, we look forward to other federal government agencies following the Corps’ spirit of providing support and assistance to law enforcement,” said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier.
Officers used a boat to pull the hand-made bridge apart, which they say violated numerous federal and state laws including the Clean Water Act and the Safe River and Harbors Act.
Braun says officers used rubber bullets, pepper spray and bean bag rounds on protesters. The department says they used less-than-lethal ammunition to control the situation. In one incident a male was at a boat and was throwing bottles at officers on the police line. A second incident occurred when a man wearing a gas mask refused to show his hands, refused to disperse and charged the police line. Officers also deployed pepper spray and tear gas to disperse the group of protesters who came across the water and camp at officers. No lethal shots were fired from law enforcement.
“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. The idea that because you have a strong opinion about something means you can threaten, harass and intimidate other American citizens is just plain wrong. I took an oath to protect the first amendment, but I also took an oath to protect citizens from this continual harassment and intimidation,” said Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney.
The FBI and BIA are following up on a report of an individual being hogtied and detained by “camp security” and being brought to the BIA checkpoint. There were also reports of gunfire in the camp, and BIA is investigating that report as well.