US service members are aiding those protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, as icy winter temperatures set in. Protestors have refused to adhere to a order to vacate the area in North Dakota by Monday.
A group of US military veterans joined the protestors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Friday. They set to work building barracks to house the thousands of activists who have refused to abandon their camp even as the frigid North Dakota winter sets in.
Veterans have also acted as human shields at the Oceti Sakowin camp, which is part of the network standing against plans to route the Dakota Access Pipeline under a lake on Native American land, potentially posing risk to the water supply. Opponents of the move also say it violates a sacred site.
Hundreds more veterans are expected to arrive this weekend to stand between protestors and police, amidst mounting allegations of abuse by security forces. Sioux leaders have made it clear they have instructed the veterans to avoid violence at all costs.
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch made a similar plea late on Friday, issuing a video statement in which she called on both sides to eschew physical confrontation. Lynch said that the Justice Department was working to open up lines of communication between the demonstrators and law enforcement.
Lynch did not mention a government order for activists to vacate the protest camp by Monday, an order authorities have said they won't physically enforce.
N. Dakota government plans talks
Protestors have been camping out to block continued construction of the $3.8 billion (3.56 billion euros) oil pipeline since April. Tensions have repeatedly escalated between officers and protestors, resulting in the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and water hoses - despite the freezing temperatures. Although police have made some 564 arrests since the protests began, more than 1,000 people remained on Friday, determined to ignore the order to vacate the path of construction.
North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple has said it is practically impossible to reroute the pipeline, but has vowed to rebuild the government's relationship with the leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux. According to Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz, a meeting between county, state and Sioux officials is set to take place on Monday.
es/gsw (AP, Reuters)