Attorney General Lynch issued a neutral statement calling for calm at the protests in Cannon Ball.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the US Justice Department will send mediators to the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline demonstrations to assist in defusing tension between local law enforcement and protesters.
Ms Lynch made her announcement as North Dakota officials ordered Standing Rock Sioux protesters to leave the construction site in Cannon Ball, or face arrest by 5 December. While peaceful protesters have endured increasing aggression, Ms Lynch urged all parties to remain non-violent.
“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,” she said in the video statement released Friday evening. “Our first concern is the safety of everyone in the area – law enforcement officers, residents, and protesters alike.”
In recent weeks, law enforcement equipped with full military gear escalated their assault on protesters, who are protesting the $3.8bn (£3bn) pipeline that is planned to span 1,172 miles with concerns that the local water supply will become tainted and sacred sites destroyed.
Officers deployed water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures, tear gas, and rubber bullets – injuring at least 17. One woman’s arm was severely injured when it was hit with a canister.
“We recognise 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,” Ms Lynch said. “We will remain committed to working with all stakeholders to enforce the law, to maintain peace, and to reach a just solution to this challenging situation.”
The Justice Department has been in discussions with North Dakota authorities as well Standing Rock Sioux Tribal chair David Archambault II. Officials from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (Cops) and the Office of Tribal Justice will be among those sent to oversee the situation.
Hundreds of veterans travelled to Cannon Ball this weekend to serve as a human shield between Standing Rock protesters and law enforcement.
A Gofundme campaign to raise money for the Veterans for Standing Rock, called for participants to “assemble as a peaceful, unarmed militia” to stand in solidarity with protesters amid the escalation from law enforcement.
“It’s time to display that honour, courage, and commitment we claim to represent,” the campaign reads. It has raised nearly $1m (£790,000) in only a few weeks. “It’s time for real patriots. Now more than ever, it’s time for anyone and everyone to lead.”
President Barack Obama had suggested the possibility that the pipeline could be rerouted – but no such plan has come to fruition.
And as Mr Obama’s presidency comes to an end, it is unlikely that President-elect Donald Trump will side with the Standing Rock tribe. Mr Trump recently came out in support of the pipeline’s construction – although he insisted it had nothing to do with his business interests.
Mr Trump has a stake in the company behind the construction, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, as well as Phillips 66, which also holds a share.
But the Trump transition team insists that his investment in the company – which went as high as $1m (£790,000) in 2015 – “has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans,” a note from the team read.
“Those making such a claim are only attempting to distract from the fact that President-elect Trump has put forth serious policy proposals he plans to set in motion on day one.”