Police used tear gas and high-pressured water hoses Sunday to disperse a crowd of 400 “very aggressive” activists protesting at the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Activists posted videos and photos on Facebook showing law enforcement officials spraying water over demonstrators in below-freezing temperatures.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Office’s spokesman Rob Keller told reporters that the water was being sprayed from a fire truck battling blazes the activists started.
Law enforcement officials called the clash with protesters “an ongoing riot on the Backwater Bridge, north of a protest camp.”
“Officers on the scene are describing protesters’ actions as very aggressive,” the sheriff’s office noted in a press release. “In order to keep protesters from crossing the bridge, law enforcement have utilized less-than-lethal means, including launching CS gas.”
Protesters contend that the fires were simply for staying warm in the sub-zero temperatures.
“They’re saying that we’re causing multiple fires out here, but we’re really only using them to stay warm,” one of the activists told reporters. “I’m just a father with a phone that loves his water, that wants his water to be clean for his children and grandchildren.”
Federal officials are refusing to evict those hunkered down at the anti-pipeline encampments near the $3.8 billion project. Officials believe booting the protesters would harm free speech rights, even though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns the land.
Protesters and members of Standing Rock Sioux argue the pipeline’s construction would trample on tribal lands and destroy artifacts, as well as poison waterways, including rivers such as the Missouri River and Lake Oahe.
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