Actress Shailene Woodley among dozens arrested at Dakota Access protests
ST. ANTHONY, N.D. – Authorities arrested Hollywood actress Shailene Woodley and 26 other protesters at two Dakota Access construction sites in Morton County on Monday, Oct. 10, as pipeline opponents vowed to keep disrupting the project after an appeals court ruling Sunday that allows work to resume on a 20-mile stretch west of Lake Oahe.
Despite the court’s ruling, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Monday it won’t authorize construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it finishes reviewing issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
The Corps also repeated its request that Dakota Access LLC voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of the lake. A company spokeswoman did not return a message seeking comment.
Monday marked the most arrests in one day since protests of the four-state, 1,172-mile pipeline began two months ago just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, where tribal members fear the pipeline will leak and contaminate their water supply and destroy sacred sites on ancestral lands.
Authorities were notified about 7:15 a.m. Monday that two protesters had attached themselves to construction equipment about 2 miles southwest of St. Anthony, Morton County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Rob Keller said. Both were arrested for felony reckless endangerment, and a third person filming the event also was arrested, he said.
A few miles south along Highway 6, about 200 protesters converged on the west side of the road where the pipeline is strung but not yet buried, including Woodley, who live-streamed video of the protest on Facebook. The star of the “Divergent” film series was arrested at 12:05 p.m. on suspicion of criminal trespass and engaging in a riot, the same basis for most of the 27 arrests, said Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney, operations chief.
Woodley was released after posting $500 bond at about 3:30 p.m.
Protesters erected an uncovered teepee in the pipeline corridor, and more than a dozen people who locked arms inside it were arrested. The 27 arrests brings the total to 123 so far.
More than 100 law enforcement officers, many of them wearing riot gear, responded to the scene, directing protesters back across the fence line and forming a human barricade to keep them off the construction site. Protesters formed their own line less than 10 feet away, holding signs, pounding drums and yelling refrains such as “Respect our land, respect our water, honor our treaties.”
“They plan to continue building, and we plan to continue to disrupt,” a protester declared through a bullhorn.
No physical violence was reported. But Laney disputed claims that it was a peaceful protest, noting protesters used threatening speech, refused to leave when asked and, at one point, surrounded a deputy who was arresting a protester, forcing another deputy to break up the circle.
“This was not a protest,” he said. “This was a riot.”
Robby Romero, an Apache from Taos, N.M., criticized what he described as the militarized police response, complete with an armored Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle parked at the top of the hill on Highway 6 overlooking the protest.
“This is a crazy response to a peaceful resistance to something that is so dangerous to all life,” he said, adding, “We will win this fight, peacefully. We come with prayer and feathers. They come with weapons of destruction.”
Both protests took place outside the 20-mile zones east and west of the Missouri River at Lake Oahe where a federal appeals court had ordered Dakota Access LLC to pause construction while the court decided on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an emergency injunction. The three-judge panel in Washington, D.C., issued a ruling Sunday rejecting the tribe’s request and dissolving the 20-mile, no-work zone.
In a joint statement Monday with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Interior Department, the Corps said it hopes to conclude its review soon. The agencies said they “continue to respect the right to peaceful protest and expect people to obey the law.”
“We also look forward to a serious discussion during a series of consultations, starting with a listening session in Phoenix on Tuesday, on whether there should be nationwide reform on the Tribal consultation process for these types of infrastructure projects,” they said.
Officers from Wisconsin assisted in Monday’s response. Schools in nearby St. Anthony and Flasher went on lockdown.
Laney said the 200 to 300 protesters who took part are a “distinct” group within the 2,500 to 3,000 mostly peaceful people camping along Highway 1806 about 25 miles away near the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers.
He said protesters’ message has been heard “loud and clear” over the last 62 days, but added “the courts have ruled” and the company has a legal right to do construction.
“If their determination is that they’re going to … do everything they can to stop this work, I guess we’re going to be here for a while,” he said.