Tensions mount: New Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp on private land evacuated

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CANNON BALL, N.D. (KFYR-TV) - There are reports of violence Thursday at the scene of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in Morton County. Protesters say police were being too forceful, using bean bag guns and pepper spray.

On the other hand, authorities say there are at least two incidents in which protesters fired shots, and there have been more than 115 arrests.

The Department of Emergency Services says protesters ran a person off the road, and the driver, who was armed, was shot in the hand.

In another case, deputies say a woman being placed under arrest pulled out a gun and fired three shots at officers, narrowly missing a deputy.

Protesters tried to hold onto the new camp they established on private property this week but were then pushed back towards their original camp.

Protesters locked arms and sang songs to defend the land they claim is sacred and rightfully theirs.

"There is a ceremony that is taking place behind me here, this is the way that we want it to be. We want to be here in prayer and in peace," says Mekasi Horinek, Camp Coordinator.

The peaceful demonstrations quickly escalated when law enforcement surrounded activists with humvees, assault vehicles and more than 150 armed officers in riot gear. The prayers of passionate protesters fell on deaf ears as officers pushed activists back and construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline resumed.

"We've been here for months, and they're still digging. And now they're trenching, and who knows what they're disturbing now. And I just want to run out there by myself, but they keep telling me not to because this is dangerous. There are armed people standing there with their guns with their finger on the trigger, and so I feel really helpless right now," says Kandi Mossett, Indigenous Environmental Network.

Some protesters moved away from the barricade and onto the construction site as law enforcement made arrests.

"I come from a long line of defenders, and I just had to be here. I knew I had to come," says a demonstrator, who wished to remain anonymous.

Demonstrators tried to stand their ground as officers inched closer to empty the new camp. To slow the process, a group of activists set up a teepee and others attached themselves to a pickup on Highway 1806.

Multiple fires were started throughout the day and night and the ND Department of Emergency Services says Molotov cocktails have been thrown at officers as the fight continues.