(Adds comments by U.S. attorney general )
By Ernest Scheyder and Terray Sylvester
CANNON BALL, N.D. Dec 2 U.S. military veterans
were building barracks on Friday at a protest camp in North
Dakota to support thousands of activists who have squared off
against authorities in frigid conditions to oppose a
multibillion-dollar pipeline project near a Native American
Veterans volunteering to be human shields have been arriving
at the Oceti Sakowin camp near the small town of Cannon Ball,
where they will work with protesters who have spent months
demonstrating against plans to route the Dakota Access Pipeline
beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation,
The Native Americans and protesters say the $3.8 billion
pipeline threatens water resources and sacred sites.
Some of the more than 2,100 veterans who signed up on the
Veterans Stand for Standing Rock group's Facebook page are at
the camp, with hundreds more expected during the weekend. Tribal
leaders asked the veterans, who aim to form a wall in front of
police to protect the protesters, to avoid confrontation with
authorities and not get arrested.
Wesley Clark Jr, a writer whose father is retired U.S. Army
General Wesley Clark, met with law enforcement on Friday to tell
them that potentially 3,500 veterans would join the protest and
the demonstrations would be carried out peacefully, protest
The plan is for veterans to gather in Eagle Butte, a few
hours away, and then travel by bus to the main protest camp,
organizers said, adding that a big procession is planned for
Protesters began setting up tents, tepees and other
structures in April, and the numbers swelled in August at the
Joshua Tree, 42, from Los Angeles, who has been visiting the
camp for weeks at a time since September, said he felt pulled to
"Destiny called me here," he said at the main camp. "We're
The protesters' voices have also been heard by companies
linked to the pipeline, including banks that protesters have
targeted for their financing of the pipeline.
Wells Fargo & Co said in a Thursday letter it would
meet with Standing Rock elders before Jan. 1 "to discuss their
concerns related to Wells Fargo's investment" in the project.
There have been violent confrontations near the route of the
pipeline with state and local law enforcement, who used tear
gas, rubber bullets and water hoses on the protesters, even in
The number of protesters in recent weeks has topped 1,000.
State officials on Monday ordered them to leave the snowy camp,
which is on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land, citing harsh
weather, but on Wednesday they said they would not enforce the
"There is an element there of people protesting who are
frightening," North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said
on Thursday. "It's time for them to go home."
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier spoke by phone on
Friday with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, but assistance
for law enforcement and a timeline for a resolution to the
situation were not offered, the sheriff's office said.
Lynch said in a statement that the U.S. Department of
Justice has been in communication with all sides in an effort to
reduce tensions and foster dialogue. She said senior department
officials will be deployed to the region as needed.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Thursday he
supported the completion of the pipeline, and his transition
team said he supported peaceful protests.
North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple said on Wednesday it
was "probably not feasible" to reroute the pipeline, but he
would try to rebuild a relationship with Standing Rock Sioux
On Friday, Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz
said his office has been working in conjunction with the
governor's office to meet with tribal leaders soon.
Since the start of demonstrations, 564 people have been
arrested, the Morton County Sheriff's Department said.
State officials never contemplated forcibly removing
protesters, and Dalrymple said his evacuation order stemmed
mainly from concerns about dangerously cold temperatures.
The temperature in Cannon Ball is expected to fall to 4
degrees Fahrenheit (-16 Celsius) by the middle of next week,
according to Weather.com forecasts.
The 1,172-mile (1,885-km) pipeline project, owned by
Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, is mostly
complete, except for a segment planned to run under Lake Oahe, a
reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.
Protesters, who refer to themselves as "water protectors,"
have been gearing up for the winter while they await the Army
Corps decision on whether to allow Energy Transfer to tunnel
under the river. The Army Corps has twice delayed that decision.
(Additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago and
David Gaffen in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Leslie