(U.S. President Barack Obama in an interview with Now This News speaking about the pipeline issue in North Dakota)
APTN National News
U.S. President Barack Obama has called on authorities to show restraint and for demonstrators to remain peaceful as tensions continue to simmer in North Dakota where a Native American-led movement is trying to stop construction of a $3.78 billion oil pipeline.
Obama also said in an interview with social media-based news organization Now This News that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which issued permits for portions of the controversial Dakota Access LLC (DAPL) pipeline, is considering possible new routes for the pipeline to avoid sights sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has been at the heart of the resistance to project.
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) November 2, 2016
“Right now the Army Corp is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline,” said Obama, in the interview, which was transmitted over social media by Now This on Wednesday. “We are going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.”
Obama called for authorities to exercise restraint as they continue to face demonstrators who are trying to block construction of the 1,886 kilometre pipeline.
The president said demonstrators should stick to peaceful actions.
“There is an obligation for protesters to be peaceful and there is an obligation for authorities to show restraint,” said Obama. “I want to make sure everybody is exercising their Constitutional rights to be heard, but that both sides are refraining from situations that might result in people being hurt.”
See related stories here: Standing Rock
Last Thursday saw intense clashes between county police officers, state troopers and National Guard soldiers and demonstrators who were launching rolling blockades and set up a camp in the path of the pipeline construction project.
Authorities used bean bag rounds, rubber pellets, sound cannons and pepper spray to break the blockades and dismantle the camp.
About 147 people were arrested as a result of the police operation. One woman was charged with attempted murder after she allegedly fired a .38 revolver as she was being taken to the ground by two officers.
An armed security contractor was also detained by Bureau of Indian Affairs agents during the demonstrations. The FBI eventually handed him over to state authorities who released him without charges.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Department, which is the lead on the law enforcement action, said the demonstrators were occupying private land. However, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said the area is part of its treaty territory under the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has said construction of the pipeline destroyed sacred sites and burial grounds. The Tribe fears the pipeline, which will be constructed under Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri River, also threatens the area’s water supply.
The Army Corp of Engineers, the Department of Interior and the Justice Department announced in September they were temporarily halting any pipeline construction next to or under the lake.
The federal government has jurisdiction over the area and ordered the work to stop until it reviewed permits issued to the project under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The Obama administration also requested a halt to construction within a 30 kilometre buffer zone east and west of the water.
The intervention came the same day a U.S. Federal Court judge rejected Standing Rock’s request to halt construction.
The construction continued, leading to the most recent clashes.
Once built, the DAPL pipeline will pump about 500,000 barrel of oil per day from the Bakken shale fields in North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois where it will connect with existing energy infrastructure.
The pipeline is being constructed by a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer. Calgary-based energy firm Enbridge owns a $1.5 billion or 27.6 per cent stake in the project.
On Monday, 85 First Nations and Tribes, which are part of an anti-pipeline alliance, called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to condemn Enbridge’s role in the pipeline project.
On June 13, 2014, Obama became the first sitting president to visit a reservation in North Dakota. He told the 1,800 people gathered that as president he would respect Native American sovereignty.