A week after clashes between protesters and police over the Dakota Access Pipe Line resulted in at least 140 arrests, President Barack Obama has hinted that the government could intervene to try and resolve the dispute.
In his first substantive comments on the issue, Obama told NowThis on Tuesday night that the Army Corps. of Engineers is considering whether the path of the pipeline can be diverted to avoid Native American sacred sites and address the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s concerns that their water supply could be threatened.
“We’re monitoring this closely,” Obama said. “My view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans. And I think that right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline. We’re going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of First Americans.”
Obama addressed criticism from activists about the behavior of police towards protesters, who say they were held in dog kennel-like enclosures and had identification numbers written on their arms after they were arrested last Thursday.
“It’s a challenging situation. There is an obligation for protesters to be peaceful, and there is an obligation for authorities to show restraint,” Obama said. “And I want to make sure that as everyone is exercising their constitutional rights to be heard that both sides are refraining from situations that might result in people being hurt.”
Last month, the Department of Justice and the Army Corps. of Engineers issued a statement saying work on a publicly-owned part of the pipeline near Lake Oahe would be halted until they could re-evaluate whether the work damages Native American cultural sites. They urged the company behind the Dakota Access Pipe Line, Energy Transfer Partners, to do the same on privately-owned sections of the pipeline. The company has not halted work and expects the pipeline to be completed and operational by the end of the year.