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Environment

Standing Rock Protests Will Continue: The Latest on the #NoDAPL Fight

(AP Photo/James MacPherson)

Protesters at the Dakota Access Pipeline site in North Dakota got a reprieve Sunday after federal authorities backed down from a threat to evict protesters there, saying they would not forcibly remove them but people could face citations for continuing to demonstrate on federally-owned land.

About 5,000 protesters are gathered at the Oceti Sakowin campsite near the proposed oil pipeline, which they say runs dangerously close to the land and water of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, according to Reuters. The protests have grown in recent weeks, but have been ongoing for more than six months.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had issued an eviction notice last week, telling protesters to leave by Dec. 5, but many had vowed to stay and continue protesting the construction of the 1,200-mile-long oil pipe that will run southeast to Iowa.

Read More: Dakota Pipeline Protests: Everything You Need to Know

The Corps’ announcement on Sunday that it would not forcibly remove protesters eased some tensions at the site, though animosity continued to grow between protesters and the local law enforcement agency, the Morton County Sheriff’s Office.

In recent weeks, the standoff between police and protesters has grown violent at times.During one clash, as protesters tried to remove burned-out vehicles police had placed as a blocked on the land, police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and water at demonstrators in below-freezing temperatures. More than 300 people were treated for injuries.

Protesters have claimed that police are using concussion grenades and water canons, which police have denied.

Read More: Shailene Woodley Arrested at Dakota Access Pipeline Protests

The Boston Globe reported that those clashes continued early this morning, with 17 protesters going to the hospital, some with hypothermia from the water hoses.

‘‘We are just not going to allow people to become unlawful,’’ Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told the Globe, adding that police have been assaulted with thrown bottles and burning logs.

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault said Kirchmeier tactics amount to acts of terror against the protesters.

‘‘His job is to protect and serve, not to inflict harm and hurt,’’ Archambault said.

Read More: 1200 Archaeologists Sign Petition Against Dakota Pipeline Over ‘Devastating’ Destruction

The clashes between police and protesters led the Army Corps to initially issue its eviction notice, saying it was aimed at protecting the public from the confrontations and would establish a nearby “free speech zone” as an alternative.

But as protesters have vowed to remain at the main camp, and the Corps has said it will allow them to do so, clashes with police could continue. Footage captured from drones that ignored the FAA rules over the holiday weekend showed continued use of water canons, according to Mashable.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has land about a half-mile away from the proposed pipe route, say the construction could disturb its sacred burial grounds potentially contaminate their water supply, Lake Oahe. The tribe sued to stop construction of the pipeline earlier this year but lost.

The Obama administration then halted the pipeline’s construction and instructed the Corps to revisit its approval of the project, and earlier this month Obama said the Corps was exploring alternate routes for the pipeline.

Read More: Water Cannons and Concussion Grenades Intensify DAPL Protests as Winter Approaches

Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipe, has said no damage will be caused to the area and it will not reroute its project.

Kirchmeier, the local sheriff, is urging federal authorities to come to a decision, one way or another.

‘‘The issue of the pipeline is not going to get solved with protesters and cops looking at each other,’’ he said. ‘‘This is bigger and takes way more political clout than what the county has to offer.’’