Pipeline opponents rally for jailed protester in Mandan

MANDAN, N.D. - More than 100 opponents of the Dakota Access oil pipeline rallied Tuesday in downtown Mandan in support of a woman arrested during an earlier protest, shutting down two city streets just hours after authorities announced a task for...

MANDAN, N.D. – More than 100 opponents of the Dakota Access oil pipeline rallied Tuesday in downtown Mandan in support of a woman arrested during an earlier protest, shutting down two city streets just hours after authorities announced a task force is investigating a violent clash Sept. 3 between protesters and pipeline security.

About 50 law enforcement officers, many in riot gear, formed a blockade in front of the Morton County law enforcement center and later Mandan City Hall when protesters marched there a block away. No arrests had been made when protesters began to disperse at about 4:30 p.m.

Cody Hall, a spokesman for the Red Warrior Camp, which is demonstrating against the pipeline, said the self-described “water protectors” were there to support Olowan Martinez, 42, of South Dakota, who is being held at the Morton County Jail.

Martinez was arrested on criminal trespass charges Sept. 13 for being on private property during a demonstration at a Dakota Access Pipeline worksite. She has posted bond on the North Dakota charge but was still being held on an outstanding warrant from Nebraska, where she is charged with felony terroristic threats, theft and two counts of criminal mischief.

The Morton County Sheriff's Department said Martinez waived her extradition to Nebraska on Sept. 14, and authorities from that state have 10 days to take her into custody. The department said 69 people have been arrested for “illegal protest activities” related to the pipeline, and Martinez is the last one in custody.


“We’re here to show support for our sister,” Hall said.

“She didn’t hurt nobody,” said Ticki Smith of Yuma, Ariz., a member of the Kwatsan Nation and one of thousands camping near the original pipeline protest site about 35 miles south of Mandan.

Authorities warned Smith and others to stay off the grass at the law enforcement center and later ordered protesters off the sidewalk at City Hall to make way for parents bringing their children to the gymnastics facility upstairs.

Smith said the pipeline opponents, who fear the pipeline will leak and contaminate the Missouri River and drinking water for millions downstream, weren’t there just to make a statement.

“We’re actually making a stand,” he said.

Mandan Police Chief Jason Ziegler said authorities had some advance notice of the protest through intelligence gathered at the traffic checkpoint on Highway 1806 south of Mandan. It was the first full-scale protest in Mandan since protests began last month, he said.

“Our goal was to make this peaceful, and as long as they followed the laws and rules, we had no problems,” he said.



Task force investigating

As protesters sang songs, chanted slogans and taunted police outside the law enforcement center, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier met with reporters in the attached courthouse to discuss his announcement earlier in the day that a joint task force led by his department is conducting an unbiased investigation of the Sept. 3 incident.

Kirchmeier said the probe is focused not only on protesters but also whether the pipeline’s private security personnel with guard dogs were licensed and whether Dakota Access destroyed sacred sites as Standing Rock Sioux Tribe officials claim.

Seven people have been charged with criminal trespass for their involvement in the incident west of Highway 1806, where pipeline opponents upset that Dakota Access was bulldozing ground identified by the tribe in court a day earlier as containing graves and other sacred sites broke through a fence.

Law enforcement wasn’t present during the confrontation, Kirchmeier said, and video and eyewitness accounts are being reviewed to try to reconstruct what happened.

Several security officers reported being attacked by protesters, and video showed a number of protesters saying they had been pepper-sprayed or bitten by dogs.

Kirchmeier said the task force is working with the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board, which is investigating the use of dogs by the private security firms, whose names authorities have not released.

The task force created last week consists of one person each from the Morton County and Mercer County sheriff’s departments, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, Kirchmeier said.


He said they plan to consult with Paul Picha, chief archaeologist with the North Dakota’s Historic Preservation Office, and a Standing Rock tribal expert “who knows about the sacred sites and knows what to look for” so they can prove or disprove that sacred sites were disturbed. Picha said arrangements were still being made to inspect the site.

Dakota Access has said in court filings that it didn’t destroy any important historical sites, noting the pipeline route follows an existing natural gas pipeline.

“It is important we give this incident a thorough examination,” Kirchmeier said.


Archambault addresses U.N. council

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II referenced the Sept. 3 incident multiple times Tuesday as he took the pipeline fight to Geneva, Switzerland, asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to condemn “the deliberate destruction of our sacred places.”

Archambault told the commission the 1,172-mile, $3.8 billion pipeline that would move 450,000 barrels of crude daily from the Bakken oil fields to a hub in Illinois “threatens our communities, the river and the earth.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has paused construction of the pipeline where it would cross Lake Oahe, a dammed section of the Missouri River, less than a mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation until the Corps can determine whether it should reconsider its previous decisions about the lake crossing. The tribe is suing the Corps for permitting the pipeline, claiming the tribe wasn’t properly consulted.

“Our nation is working to protect our waters and our sacred places for the benefit of our children not yet born. But the oil companies and the government of the United States have failed to respect our sovereign rights,” Archambault told the council.

Archambault asked the council and its 47 member states to “call upon all parties” to stop the pipeline construction “and to protect the environment, our nation’s future, our culture and our way of life.”

Forum News Service’s Steve Wagner contributed to this article.

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