Authorities deny jamming protesters’ cellphones

dakota-access-pipline-protest-smoke

CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) — The Latest on the protests at the Dakota Access oil pipeline construction site in North Dakota (all times local):

2:10 p.m.

Dakota Access pipeline protesters believe local and state authorities jammed cellphone coverage during an operation to force activists from a camp they had set up on private land.

But authorities dispute that, saying the spotty nature of cellphone coverage in the remote area is to blame.

Protest spokesman Cody Hall says protesters had difficulty sending texts and livestreams during Thursday’s operation. He says protesters feel their free speech rights were violated.

Morton County sheriff’s spokesman Rob Keller says authorities did not jam cellphones during Thursday’s operation or at any time during the 2 ½ months protests have been ongoing.

Keller says the area has poor cellphone coverage, and that multiple people livestreaming events Thursday “reduced the bandwidth and consequently resulted in bad connections.”

___

1:30 p.m.

A group of people working as security officers for Dakota Access pipeline opponents are telling protesters gathered on a North Dakota highway near a construction site to return to the main camp.

The order came as authorities prepared to remove two roadblocks created overnight by protesters, one comprised of a burned SUV and sheets of plywood, and another with two heavy trucks on a bridge.

Camp security told the group of about 50 people that tribal leaders wanted protesters to leave the site. Some still remained.

The protesters also defied authorities’ earlier orders to clear the roadway, which is in a rural part of the state. The Highway Patrol had already shut down traffic to keep vehicles away from the protest area.

About 200 officers in riot gear are standing guard behind the armored vehicles.

___

11:45 a.m.

Authorities with heavy equipment are poised to clear roadblocks that were built overnight by protesters of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

One roadblock is comprised of a burned SUV and sheets of plywood, and another is made up of two burned heavy trucks on a bridge.

More than two dozen protesters are at the site, many of them waving signs and holding up their hands in a show of defiance. Law enforcement authorities in riot gear are lined up on a hill overlooking the scene.

Authorities cleared protesters from a nearby camp Thursday using shotgun bean bag rounds and pepper spray. Officers arrested 141 people.

___

9:40 a.m.

Protesters who were ousted from a camp they established on private land in North Dakota to protest the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline are using burned vehicles to block a state highway.

One roadblock is comprised of a burned car and sheets of plywood, and another is made up of two burned military vehicles on a bridge.

Numerous military vehicles and work trucks are parked in the area.

Authorities cleared protesters from the camp Thursday using shotgun bean bag rounds and pepper spray. Spent bean bag rounds and pepper spray canisters litter the ground Friday.

The larger, main encampment of protesters remains untouched on federally owned land not far away. Protesters fear the pipeline could affect water supply and disturb tribal cultural sites.

___

8 a.m.

The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is condemning the removal of Dakota Access oil pipeline protesters from a camp on private land, and has vowed to continue the fight against construction of the pipeline.

On Thursday, authorities used shotgun beanbag rounds and pepper spray to oust about 200 protesters from the land owned by the pipeline’s developer, Energy Transfer Partners. Officers arrested 141 people.

Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault issued a statement calling the operation “acts of violence against innocent, prayerful people.”

Authorities say protesters threw rocks at officers, intimidated them with horses and set numerous fires.

Archambault said the fight against the pipeline will continue. The tribe fears it will harm their drinking water and violate sacred sites.

___

1:20 a.m.

Authorities have updated to 141 the number of people arrested when law enforcement officers evicted protesters from private property in the path of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Donnell Hushka, a spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, says most of the protesters were arrested for conspiracy to endanger by fire or explosion, engaging in a riot and maintaining a public nuisance.

The nearly six-hour operation to evict the protesters began at 11:15 a.m. Thursday.

Hushka says protesters started numerous fires during the course of the day, including setting three pieces of construction equipment on fire.

___

12:10 a.m.

A months-long protest over the Dakota Access oil pipeline reached its most chaotic pitch yet when hundreds of law enforcement officers moved in to force activists off private property.

Thursday’s nearly six-hour operation dramatically escalated the dispute over Native American rights and the project’s environmental impact, with officers in riot gear firing bean bags and pepper spray.

At least 117 people were arrested, and no serious injuries were reported.

State Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong says that among those arrested was a woman who pulled out a .38-caliber pistol and fired three times at officers, narrowly missing a sheriff’s deputy. She says officers did not return fire.

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier says the camp was cleared by nightfall.