Pipeline protesters believe they can stay on federal land

Police and protesters clash
In this image provided by Morton County Sheriff’s Department, law enforcement and protesters clash near the site of the Dakota Access pipeline on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Cannon Ball, N.D. The clash came as protesters sought to push past a bridge on a state highway that had been blockaded since late October, according to the Morton County Sheriff's Office. (Morton County Sheriff’s Department via AP)

CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) – The Latest on the protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline (all times local):

1:35 p.m.

Dakota Access pipeline protesters say they don’t intend to leave their encampment in the near future.

Isaac Weston is a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe from South Dakota. He was one of several people who spoke at a news conference Saturday in response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to close land where hundreds have been camping for months.

Weston says indigenous people are the wardens of the land and the government can’t remove them. He says they have a right to be there, and they are protecting the land and water.

Others say they don’t believe the Corps will force protesters off the federal land north of the Cannonball River on Dec. 5, but that the government’s letter put the protesters on notice and limits the Corps’ liability.

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12:15 p.m.

An organizer of protests against the Dakota Access pipeline says he believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to close land to demonstrators will escalate tensions.

Dallas Goldtooth is a protest organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network. He says the government’s apparent decision is “an atrocious example that colonization has not ended for us here as indigenous people.”

The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says he received a letter from the Corps on Friday that said officials will close federal land where a large encampment is located on Dec. 5. The letter says anyone on the property north of the Cannonball River after that date will be trespassing and subject to prosecution.

Goldtooth believes many people will chose not to move. He says protesters are building shelters and teepees to prepare.

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11 a.m.

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple says the federal government must take the lead in any action to close land where thousands have camped for months in protest of the four-state, $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent a letter to a tribal leader Friday, saying it would close the Corps land to protesters on Dec. 5. The letter says anyone on the property north of the Cannonball River after that date will be trespassing and subject to prosecution.

Dalrymple says he supports the Corps’ decision, citing public safety concerns and health risks due to camping in winter conditions.

Dalrymple says that the federal government has allowed protesters to camp on Corps land for more than 100 days, so it is the government’s responsibility to lead the camp’s peaceful closure.

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10:40 a.m.

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to close federal land where protesters of the Dakota Access pipeline have camped is a needed step to keep residents, workers, protesters and authorities safe.

The North Dakota Democrat said Saturday that it’s critical for protesters to peacefully and lawfully move off the land north of the Cannonball River.

She issued her statement a day after the Corps sent a letter to Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault that said the federal land about 50 miles south of Bismarck on which the vast majority of protesters have gathered at the Oceti Sakowin camp will close Dec. 5.

Heitkamp has been pressing the White House to make a decision on an easement for the pipeline. She says people are “waiting in limbo” and that the issue needs to be put to rest in the interest of public safety.

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10:15 a.m.

North Dakota U.S. Sen. John Hoeven says opponents of the Dakota Access oil pipeline should respect the law and leave the protest area.

The Republican made the statement after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent a letter Friday to Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault that said the federal land about 50 miles south of Bismarck on which the vast majority of protesters have gathered at the Oceti Sakowin camp will close Dec. 5.

Archambault says the letter cites the oncoming winter and confrontations between protesters and police. He also says, “our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever.”

Hoeven is calling for the Obama administration to approve the easement for the pipeline, saying the situation needs to be resolved.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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