The last few days have been quiet in terms of protest activity in south central North Dakota around the construction corridor of the Dakota Access Pipeline, but today things are heating up again.
I had heard a rumor that protesters slashed tires on law enforcement and other first responder vehicles today, something North Dakota Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Tom Iverson confirmed to me this afternoon. “Yes that is true,” he told me.
In a follow up message Iverson told me tires were slashed on at least six law enforcement vehicles.
Rob Keller, a spokesman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, also confirmed the slashed tires and provided some additional details.
“Law enforcement got a report that there were protesters and vehicles headed on Highway 6 up to what is called Access Road 118, which is where Dakota Access Pipeline bored under Highway 6,” he told me, saying there were “about 100 protesters in vehicles and buses.”
Highway 6 was closed for a while, but was re-opened this afternoon.
“They made their way east onto the easement,” he continued. “We have seen graffiti, windows knocked out, wires cut in engine compartments, and some sort of damage done to the interior of the engine compartment.”
According to this Reuters report some of the construction equipment may also have been set on fire. Protesters also tried to block a public highway again.
“They set up their own blockade where they blocked traffic,” Keller told me, indicating that this took place along Highway 6. “There were approximately 30 arrests there and vehicles impounded. Three that I know of were arrested for damaging the equipment. At least 33 – 35 that we know off were arrested and taken into the Morton County Correctional Center.”
Keller added that there was a separate event staged by protesters this morning which was entirely peaceful.
“This morning there was a march on the Backwater Bridge, approximately 250 – 300 people. It seemed peaceful,” Keller said. “That was to honor the veterans who were down there.”
A decision from the Obama administration on the easement to cross Lake Oahe is imminent according to reports. I think for North Dakota law enforcement, and most of the citizens of our state, that decision can’t come soon enough.