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21 protesters arrested, officers injured Wednesday night

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The Morton County Sheriff's Department said 21 Dakota Access Pipeline protesters were arrested Wednesday night, and six law enforcement officers and North Dakota National Guard members were injured.

A clash between protesters and law enforcement began around 6:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Backwater Bridge on N.D. Highway 1806, near the main protest camp, according to a news release from the sheriff's department.

Over the course of four hours, protesters set fire to three tires on the bridge and two fires on each side of the bridge, the sheriff's department said. Last week, after an inspection in December, the bridge was deemed structurally sound.

Maxine Herr, a spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff's Department, said she isn't sure whether additional testing will have to be done on the bridge.

“That would probably be up to (the Department of Transportation),” she said. “Our office will probably contact (the DOT) and see."

When protesters on the bridge reportedly failed to "comply to multiple orders" from law enforcement officers to return to the south side of the bridge and camp, officers deployed less-than-lethal munitions — including direct impact sponge rounds, drag stabilizer bean bag rounds, hand-deployed pepper spray canisters and smoke canisters, the release said. 

About 150 protesters were on the bridge, the release said.

Six law enforcement officers and North Dakota National Guard members reported ankle, shoulder, wrist, hand and other injuries. One protester sustained an eye injury and was transported to Sanford Health in Bismarck, Herr said. His injury is currently under investigation.

“Last night, our officers faced the same type of hostility and aggression that we have been subjected to for the past six months," Mandan Police Chief Jason Ziegler said in the release. “Rioters once again violated the December agreement to stay off the Backwater Bridge as they set fires and assaulted officers using a variety of materials including ice chunks, rocks and other homemade projectiles.”

The bridge was cleared three times Wednesday night, and 21 people were arrested on charges ranging from carrying a concealed weapon to criminal trespass, physical obstruction of a government function, preventing arrest or infraction after remaining on the bridge after being requested to leave. A majority of those arrested were transported to the Mercer County Jail in Stanton.

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation is investigating the incident.

On Monday night through Tuesday, 14 people were arrested at Backwater Bridge and a Dakota Access drill site.

Since Aug. 10, 624 arrests have been made in connection with the protests.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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