Dozens of pipeline protesters arrested in latest skirmish

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Law officers arrested about three dozen Dakota Access oil pipeline protesters in a confrontation Friday that also shut down a state highway.

The midday incident began after about 100 protesters confronted crews doing dirt work along the pipeline route where pipe had already been laid. Workers were safety evacuated, but protesters threw rocks, vandalized equipment, slashed tires on law enforcement vehicles, and used themselves and vehicles to block a county road and state Highway 6, according to Morton County sheriff’s spokeswoman Donnell Hushka.

Authorities shut down a 10-mile stretch of the highway for public safety reasons for about two hours before the skirmish died down early in the afternoon.

Law officers closed the state highway for a second time after protesters created an additional roadblock, but the Highway Patrol said the highway south of Mandan reopened late Friday afternoon.

There were no immediate reports of injuries. Highway Patrol Lt. Tom Iverson said six vehicles belonging to various law agencies were damaged.

The clash happened about 20 miles to the northwest of a protest camp where hundreds of pipeline opponents have gathered for months. More than 470 people have now been arrested since August. Cody Hall, a spokesman for the protest camp, said he couldn’t comment on Friday’s clash because he wasn’t present and didn’t have details.

The 1,200-mile pipeline that’s to deliver oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois is complete except for under the Missouri River in North Dakota. Work on that stretch has been delayed while the Army Corps of Engineers reviews its permitting. The Standing Rock Sioux and other opponents say the pipeline threatens drinking water and cultural sites. The company insists it’s safe.

Energy Transfer Partners issued a statement Friday saying that it would agree to a Corps request to suspend work in the area to defuse tension, “if we can agree on a date certain upon which we can complete construction.” The Corps didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday, which was a federal holiday.

The company also said it’s made an offer to the state to help pay law enforcement costs related to the protests “but it has not moved beyond that at this time.” A spokesman for Gov. Jack Dalrymple said the governor’s office hadn’t seen the offer yet and wouldn’t speculate on whether the state would accept.