Authorities begin to remove Dakota Access pipeline protesters

Protesters against the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline block a highway in near Cannon Ball, N.D., on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. Law enforcement officials have asked people protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline to vacate an encampment on private land, and the protesters said no. Protesters are trying to halt construction of the pipeline they fear will harm cultural sites and drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux. (AP Photo/James MacPherson)
Protesters against the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline block a highway in near Cannon Ball, N.D., on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. Law enforcement officials have asked people protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline to vacate an encampment on private land, and the protesters said no. Protesters are trying to halt construction of the pipeline they fear will harm cultural sites and drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux. (AP Photo/James MacPherson)

CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) — Authorities say they have begun taking steps to remove Dakota Access pipeline protesters camped on private land in the path of the pipeline in North Dakota.

The Morton County Sheriff’s office says law enforcement began the operation at 11:15 a.m. local time Thursday, a day after protesters refused to leave voluntarily.

About 200 activists supporting the Standing Sioux Tribe moved onto the site last weekend, setting up teepees and tents and saying the land is rightfully theirs under a more than century-old treaty.

But the pipeline’s developer, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, says the protesters are trespassing and demands they leave.

The almost-complete $3.8 billion pipeline passes through North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa to Patoka, Illinois. Opponents worry about its negative effect on drinking water, as well as the potential destruction of cultural artifacts

More than 260 people have been arrested since demonstrations began in August.

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