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MORTON COUNTY — A day of calm followed in the aftermath of a Thursday altercation, in which militarized police forced hundreds of protesters to retreat from their barricades and a camp they had set up on Highway 1806 on the easement of a Dakota Access Pipeline construction site.

Protesters were sent back to the main camp, which was relatively quiet on Friday afternoon. However, demonstrators and police faced off against each other on the Backwater Bridge — a site where tense interactions had occurred overnight between them.

Multiple fires had been set to debris on the bridge, and people were throwing Molotov cocktails at police. Two officers received minor injuries after being hit by logs and other debris, according to the Morton County Sheriff's Department.

The bridge standoff remained Friday, but protesters had thinned out in the early afternoon.

Lelani Running Bear, of Standing Rock, sat on a hill next to the bridge, watching the protesters and police. She eyed a group of demonstrators who were revving their trucks and blasting loud music.

“There’s no need for that," said Running Bear, who has been at the main camp since August. “But I don’t blame them. They don’t know how to handle their anger and frustration."

People at the main camp reported injuries among protesters who were at the scene of the clash on Thursday. Police used pepper spray, bean bag and sponge rounds, as well as a Taser. One person was left with rib cage bruises from bean bag bullets, and another young woman apparently had a bone in her arm rebroken.

A horse was reportedly shot and killed by police, according to several protesters. However, no remains were recovered.

At Backwater Bridge, people set numerous fires to vehicles and other debris, including nine vehicles and construction equipment. The burnt-out vehicles remained there Friday. Morton County Sheriff's Office indicated 69 vehicles were towed from the scene.

Joye Braun, a protest organizer, said Friday leaders at the camp — including elders — are talking with those who had started the fires.

“We’re working with our elders, and we’re working with the young people who are hugely traumatized," Braun said.

During altercations on Thursday, some protesters urged people to remain peaceful and prayerful, while others threw logs, water bottles and rocks at officers.

“That triggered a lot of trauma," Braun said of police actions against protesters. “Because we’ve been attacked by dogs. We’ve been attacked with pepper spray.”

Braun said many elders at the camp are calling for the youth to stand down.

Johanna Holy Elk Face, who lives in Denver but is originally from Standing Rock, was among the protesters arrested Thursday. She was taken to Morton County jail, but released after a couple of hours.

Holy Elk Face said police wrote numbers on both of her arms after she was arrested. One number was used to identify her belongings, she said.

Authorities also reported two incidents of shots fired Thursday afternoon, but one may have been a flare gun used to set a vehicle on fire, according to Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier.

One woman allegedly fired a handgun three times toward police and was arrested.

An armed man, who was allegedly run off the road by protesters, was not shot in the hand as initially indicated by the Morton County Sheriff's Department. Protesters have alleged that the man was a Dakota Access Pipeline security contractor and pointed to insurance documents they say were found in the truck he was driving.

A majority of the 142 people arrested were charged with conspiracy to endanger by fire/explosion, engaging in a riot and maintaining a public nuisance. Many, who were housed Thursday night in various county jails, including Burleigh, Morton, Cass, McLean and Mercer, were processed at the Morton County Courthouse throughout Friday.

While every protester taking part in the raucous demonstration of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Thursday could have been arrested, Capt. Bryan Niewind, of the North Dakota Highway Patrol, said that only 142 were taken into custody.

"We could have arrested everyone yesterday," Niewind said during a late afternoon press conference held Friday.

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"Not everybody is violent in this. There are people who are very prayerful and peaceful," Niewind said of some protesters who were helpful in pushing demonstrators away from a camp set up on the easement of the pipeline.

As of 4:40 p.m. Friday, about 108 people had been charged. Of those, 11 are residents of North Dakota and the remainder are from out of state. More serious charges were issued against Sydney Nicole Johnson, of Chillicothe, Ohio, who was charged with reckless endangerment. Alexander Briggs, of Troy, N.Y., was charged with criminal trespass.

“Us elderly women were trying to talk to the younger generation to let them know that they don’t need to be here for that. It’s not a violent one, you don’t need to be angry and mad, you need to go back to the camp," Holy Elk Face said.

Holy Elk Face said some protesters started fighting with each other, and she got pushed.

“I went out there for my support of our water, for my children and grandchildren and future families,” she said. “Instead of that, the younger generation just really let it get to them where they were angry and mad because the military people were intimidating.”

Holy Elk Face was arrested Thursday afternoon.

“Criminal trespassing and engaging in a riot?” she said at the main camp on Friday while sitting on a cooler reading papers that showed her charges. “Me and two other elderly women were just sitting in a ditch on logs, praying.”

Those at the encampment indicated that Thursday's altercation with police would not force them to waver.

“The pipeline will not cross this river,” Braun said. “That’s all I can say about that.”

 

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

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