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Amnesty International to observe pipeline protest, some going to court

NEAR CANNON BALL, N.D.--Amnesty International has sent a delegation of human rights observers to monitor the law enforcement response to the camp protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under the Missouri River.

NEAR CANNON BALL, N.D.-Amnesty International has sent a delegation of human rights observers to monitor the law enforcement response to the camp protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under the Missouri River.

Thousands of people, including members of at least 60 Native American tribes, have camped out south of Mandan near the construction site of the pipeline that, if completed, would take Bakken oil to Illinois.

Tarah Demant, a spokesperson for the delegation, said the international human rights organization has been concerned about reports that the state of North Dakota took away water resources that had been provided to protesters.

"We are concerned about the health and safety of protesters," she said.

State-owned trailers and water tanks earlier this week were removed from the protest camp after reports of unlawful activity stoked fears among state officials that equipment would not be secure.

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Amnesty International also sent identical letters to North Dakota Highway Patrol Col. Michael Gerhart and Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier to remind them of how officials are called to act during protests according to international human rights standards and the U.S. Constitution.

The letters discuss use of force, decisions to break up protests and how those decisions should be communicated, the use of detention and other issues.

Demant said Amnesty International only recently began sending observers to protests within the United States to ensure that law enforcement officials were protecting the right to peacefully protest, though the organization has a long history of such observations internationally. They have not previously been in North Dakota.

The delegation arrived in Bismarck mid afternoon Wednesday and had not arrived yet at the protest camp.

"Our hope is that we won't have anything to report," Demant said.

North Dakota Highway Patrol Lt. Tom Iverson and Donnell Preskey, a spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff's department, said they were not aware of any communications local enforcement has had with Amnesty International. The group's arrival will not change anything about how the patrol approaches the protest, Iverson said.

"Our message remains the same," he said. "We need to keep everybody safe and promote safety for everybody involved - protesters, workers, law enforcement and the motoring public," he said.

Meanwhile a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota will represent one of the pipeline protesters being sued by Dakota Access LLC.

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Jennifer Cook filed Wednesday to represent Jonathan Edwards, against whom a temporary restraining order was issued Aug. 16.

A complaint filed by the company alleges Edwards built "obstructions" to prevent pipeline workers from accessing the construction site and chained himself to a fence in order to prevent work from continuing.

Cook could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. In a statement released on the organization's website Monday, Cook said the protest is "precisely the type of assembly protected by the First Amendment."

Edwards is one of seven people, including Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II and council member Dana Yellow Fat, whom the company said interfered with pipeline work through their actions in the protest, threatening the safety of workers and costing the company business, according to court documents.

By an order from U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, these protesters are barred from "unlawfully interfering in any way with the plaintiff and its representatives' access and construction of the pipeline."

On Friday, former U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon filed to represent the two tribal leaders named in the suit.

A hearing on the restraining order is scheduled for Sep. 8 in Bismarck.

Related Topics: DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE
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