BISMARCK, N.D. -- The Ace Hardware chain is denying widely circulated reports that it was refusing to sell camping supplies to protesters demonstrating against the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota.

Protest advocates started a BoycottAceHardware hashtag after some supporters tweeted what was said to be a statement from Ace that said stores near the area were asked by law enforcement officials to "refrain from selling material that could be used at the camps." The largest encampment set up in opposition to the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline has been called the largest gathering of Native American tribes in a century.

The purported statement, signed by "Camillia H./Ace Care Center," included a toll-free telephone number, which was answered by a recording directing it to the company website.

Ace spokeswoman Anna Wyrwas said in a statement Thursday that the chain has not banned the sale of products at any Ace store, and North Dakota Department of Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong denies law enforcement ever ordered Ace to halt sales to demonstrators. A spokesperson for a large protesters' group also said the reports, which trended widely on social media Thursday, were not true.

An employee who answered the phone at the Ace Hardware in nearby Bismarck said Thursday that the store had not received anything from corporate headquarters suggesting a ban on selling to demonstrators. The employee, who declined to give a name, said protesters had been in buying supplies all day.