WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 (UPI) — U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced plans to send federal mediators to mitigate violence at protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Lynch released a video statement announcing the “deployment of conciliators from the Community Relations Service to North Dakota” after a phone conversation with Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault II.
“Let me stress that violence is never the answer and that all of us have a responsibility to find common ground around a peaceful resolution where all voices are heard. Our first concern is the safety of everyone in the area – law enforcement officers, residents and protesters alike,” she said.
“To that end, the Department of Justice has offered community policing resources to local law enforcement in North Dakota, and we have made strenuous efforts to open lines of communication and dialogue between law enforcement, tribal leaders and protesters.”
Tensions in the area are expected to rise as the Dec. 5 deadline for protesters to evacuate all lands north of the Cannonball River draws near.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they had no plans to forcibly remove protesters at the deadline, but warned those who stay in the area do so “at their own risk” as fire, medical and law enforcement services will not be provided to those areas.
Military veteran group Veterans Stand For Standing Rock announced plans to gather 2,000 veterans armed with body armor, gas masks, ear plugs and shooting mufflers to protect protesters from the “militarized police force” beginning Sunday.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights also expressed concerns about the use of “military-style equipment” and “excessive force” against protesters, according to ABC News.
“Our concerns are compounded by the disproportionate police use of excessive force against Native Americans, who are more likely than any other racial group to be killed by police,” the USCCR said.
Lynch stated she had directed senior officials from the Office of Tribal Justice, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, the Community Relations Service and the local U.S. Attorney to address concerns and “re-deploy to the region as needed.”
“We recognize the strong feelings that exist about the Dakota Access Pipeline – feelings that in many instances arise from the complicated and painful history between the federal government and American Indians,” she said. “We will remain committed to working with all stakeholders to enforce the law, to maintain the peace, and to reach a just solution to this challenging situation.”