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Oversen: Violence at Dakota Access protest site 'not acceptable'

Grand Forks state Rep. Kylie Oversen, the chairwoman of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, denounced violence taking place at the protest over the Dakota Access oil pipeline this week, as her Republican opponents questioned her previous state...

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Kylie Oversen, candidate for District 42 speaks during a forum at City Hall in Grand Forks, ND on Monday, October 24, 2016. (Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)

Grand Forks state Rep. Kylie Oversen, the chairwoman of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, denounced violence taking place at the protest over the Dakota Access oil pipeline this week,  as her Republican opponents questioned her previous statement of support for protesters Friday.

"From the beginning, we have made clear that violence, from or against any party, is not acceptable," she wrote in an email Friday afternoon. "I again condemn any violence occurring at the protest sites and hope state and tribal leadership can commit to finding a nonviolent response to this ongoing conflict."

Oversen's Republican opponents in the District 42 race issued a news release Friday afternoon calling on the Democratic incumbent to "condemn the illegal, violent actions of the pipeline protesters she publicly endorsed just two months ago," a reference to an Aug. 24 Facebook post in which Oversen said, "To my friends on the front lines, I stand with you." 

Oversen said in a follow-up email that she was referring to friends participating in a "peaceful protest."

Oversen and her running mate, Grant Hauschild, are facing Republicans Jake Blum and Emily O'Brien in the District 42 House race, while Curt Kreun is running in the Senate against Democratic incumbent Mac Schneider.

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The Republicans' statement comes after perhaps the most tense week in the long-running protest over the Dakota Access pipeline, which would run from western North Dakota to Illinois.

Officers and military-style vehicles cleared out protesters blocking a state highway Thursday. Law enforcement reported homemade explosives were thrown, and officials cited two instances of shots being fired, including one in which a woman fired three shots near officers before being taken into custody, according to Forum News Service.

"Gunshots and homemade explosives are not peaceful protest, and Rep. Oversen needs to understand this distinction," the Republicans added in their statement. "After everything that has happened, what is it about the protests that Rep. Oversen continues to support?"

The pipeline has attracted opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has raised concerns that the pipeline runs through sacred sites and would harm its drinking water in the event of a spill.

Oversen also pointed to her Sept. 8 statement, in which she said the Democratic Party supports "the right of all parties to protest peacefully, and believe(s) that any act of violence or intimidation against workers or protesters must be condemned."

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