U.S. President Barack Obama weighed in Wednesday on the controversy over a planned oil pipeline in North Dakota, saying authorities will review alternative routes.
Native Americans and other protesters have tried to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, arguing that the route goes through sacred Native American grounds and poses a risk to the local water supply.
"We are monitoring this closely. I think as a general rule, my view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans," Obama said in an interview with NowThis news — his first public comment on the pipeline protests, which began months ago. "I think that right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline."
Obama said he planned to let the protests “play out" for the next couple of weeks, but called on both sides to be peaceful and show restraint.
Although protesters have set up camp at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation since April, tensions between them and the police have escalated in the past week.
A confrontation Wednesday between police and protesters across the Missouri River reportedly led officers to spray multiple rounds of mace at protesters and fire rubber bullets.
Protests last Saturday resulted in more than 100 arrests.
Protests had been intensifying since July, when a permit was obtained to route the pipeline beneath the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, less than 1 kilometer from the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation.