Dakota Access Pipeline: Veterans stage symbolic protest near camp

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Military veterans who have arrived at an encampment to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline walked into an area that has been blocked off by police and asked the officers standing guard there to lay down their arms.

A group of 15 to 20 veterans, some wearing camouflage jackets, staged the symbolic protest on Thursday evening to show their solidarity with opponents of the pipeline slated to carry oil from western North Dakota to Illinois.

Using a megaphone, police told the veterans to move away because they were trespassing. The veteran shouted back that they had served their country and had a right to be there.

The protest lasted about 40 minutes on a cold evening with snow on the ground, forcing the veterans to scramble over mounds of snow during the peaceful demonstration.

Military veterans had planned to gather at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota December 4 to show their support for those camped in protest of the four-state Dakota Access pipeline.

Veterans Stand for Standing Rock says 2,000 veterans will gather Sunday in Fort Yates, which is on the reservation. The organization says they'll be bused to the protesters' main camp on Monday and spend most of Tuesday and Wednesday on the front lines.

The group has set up a page at GoFundMe.com to raise money for food, transportation and supplies. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had raised nearly $700,000 of its $1 million goal.

The pipeline is designed to carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois. Opponents, including the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, say it will harm drinking water and cultural sites.

Meanwhile, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple has re-emphasized his state has no intention of blocking food and supplies from coming into a large encampment where people have gathered to protest the four-state pipeline.

Dalrymple issued a "mandatory evacuation" Monday for the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires camp, on federal land "to safeguard against harsh winter conditions."

Dalrymple said Wednesday that the order created a misunderstanding after some state officials said delivering supplies to the camp could be subject to a $1,000 fine.

The Republican says the state "is not going to have roadblocks and we are not going to be stopping people" because it would be a "huge mistake from a humanitarian viewpoint."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently said all federal lands north of the Cannonball River will be closed to public access Dec. 5, including the camp.

North Dakota leaders will borrow an additional $7 million to cover the cost of law enforcement related to the ongoing protest of the four-state Dakota Access oil pipeline.

The state's Emergency Commission voted Wednesday to borrow the funds from the state-owned Bank of North Dakota. The commission is headed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

The group earlier approved $10 million in emergency spending.

Officials say the new loan should cover the state's cost of policing protests over the $3.8 billion pipeline through December.

Dalrymple says requests for reimbursement from the federal government have been unsuccessful.

Pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners says it made an offer to reimburse the state for policing costs. Dalrymple says he is not aware of an offer and it's unclear whether the state could legally accept it.

Ace Hardware is denying widely circulated reports that it was refusing to sell camping supplies to protesters demonstrating against the pipeline.

People opposed to the pipeline started a “BoycottAceHardware” hashtag after some supporters tweeted what was said to be a statement from Ace that said stores near the area were asked by law enforcement officials to `'refrain from selling material that could be used at the camps." The largest encampment set up in opposition to the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline has been called the largest gathering of Native American tribes in a century.

The purported statement, signed by "Camillia H./Ace Care Center," included a toll-free telephone number, which was answered by a recording directing it to the company website.

Ace spokeswoman Anna Wyrwas said in a statement Thursday that the chain has not banned the sale of products at any Ace store, and North Dakota Department of Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong denies law enforcement ever ordered Ace to halt sales to demonstrators. A spokesperson for a large protesters' group also said the reports, which trended widely on social media Thursday, were not true.

An employee who answered the phone at the Ace Hardware in nearby Bismarck said Thursday that the store had not received anything from corporate headquarters suggesting a ban on selling to demonstrators. The employee, who declined to give a name, said protesters had been in buying supplies all day.

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