Dakota Access Protesters diverted from St. Anthony
Posted by Zig Zag
by CAROLINE GRUESKIN, Bismarck Tribune, October 5, 2016
ST. ANTHONY — Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline was shut down Wednesday afternoon west of St. Anthony after protesters demonstrated at the town’s entrance and at a worksite a few miles west.
Protesters initially planned to drive through St. Anthony to demonstrate at the worksite, but were halted by law enforcement, which blocked County Road 136 into town around noon. They subsequently made an end-run around the roadblock to protest at the worksite about an hour later.
Construction was halted at worksites to the west after the initial confrontation between law enforcement and protesters in St. Anthony. Protest organizers indicated they wanted to go to the site to confirm work had stopped and display their “victory.”
Caro Gonzalez, one of the protesters, called the action a success. “We stopped the pipe from being constructed today,” she said.
Despite cool temperatures and 40 mph winds, about 150 to 200 protesters converged at both sites. There was a heavy law enforcement presence, including more than a dozen patrol cars and armored vehicles, but no one was arrested.
When protesters initially converged on St. Anthony, law enforcement blocked the road — a move authorities said was for safety, but protesters criticized as a rights violation.
Lt. Tom Iverson of the North Dakota Highway Patrol said the road was closed so pipeline workers could get out, and because kids were attending school and cars were blocking the road.
Angela Bibens, ground coordinator of the National Lawyers Guild Red Owl Legal Collective, countered that the “water protectors are within the boundaries of the law to drive around the county.”
When protesters were stopped from going through town, they staged a smaller demonstration there, dancing and praying at the junction with Highway 6, before taking a different route to the worksite.
Law enforcement in the area confirmed that work at several construction sites near St. Anthony had stopped and workers were evacuated. In addition, Little Heart Elementary School was placed on lockdown, which an official at the school said has become fairly common.
Today, an appeal of a federal district court judge’s decision to deny the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe an injunction against pipeline construction under the Missouri River was heard in Washington.
This afternoon, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney, North Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendent Mike Gerhart, and North Dakota National Guard Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmannis are expected to announce a change in law enforcement strategies regarding the pipeline protests.