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Cass County deputies among officers patrolling pipeline protests

FARGO--Cass County deputies have answered a call for help from Morton County at the site of protests against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Reservation in south central North Dakota.

Protesters opposing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline ride horses near a line of law enforcement officers. Ongoing protests by members of the nearby Standing Rock tribe and others have delayed work on the project. The image comes from a video posted to the Facebook page of a group called Urban Native Era on Monday, Aug. 15. Special to The Forum
Protesters opposing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline ride horses near a line of law enforcement officers. Ongoing protests by members of the nearby Standing Rock tribe and others have delayed work on the project. The image comes from a video posted to the Facebook page of a group called Urban Native Era on Monday, Aug. 15. Special to Forum News Service

FARGO-Cass County deputies have answered a call for help from Morton County at the site of protests against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Reservation in south central North Dakota.

Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney and 11 of his deputies are there to supplement county deputies and state troopers on scene, Laney said Wednesday, Aug. 17.

Laney said he's serving as the deputy incident commander. He said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier asked him Saturday to put out a statewide call for mutual aid from other sheriff's departments.

Mercer and Stutsman Counties also sent deputies who were on scene Wednesday, Aug. 17, and Grand Forks County is planning to send at least a handful of deputies to replace others in a few days.

"We're working on it," said Lt. Gary Grove of the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Department. "It's either going to be Sunday or Monday morning."

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Laney said officers are trying to keep a low profile at the scene of the protest near Cannonball, which has drawn hundreds. However, he said some situations have become tense, with protesters pushing troopers back with horses and throwing bottles and rocks. He said they're hearing that militant groups have arrived or will soon and are making threats toward law enforcement.

"This is really dangerous down here," Laney said.

Ongoing protests that began last week near the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation have shut down construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline, which would transport crude oil from the North Dakota Oil Patch to Illinois.

Standing Rock opposes the pipeline's Missouri River crossing because tribal members fear a pipeline leak would threaten their water supply and other sacred sites. The tribe has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which issued a permit for the pipeline, and a hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 24 in Washington, D.C.

Laney said he plans to bring the first group of deputies back to Fargo Saturday night, but he and a few others may stay longer.

"We don't want to overreact ... at the same time, we don't want to underreact and not have enough manpower," Laney said.

Meanwhile, state transportation officials announced they were temporarily closing Highway 1806 to southbound traffic about six miles south of Mandan Wednesday afternoon due to congestion. The DOT said a large number of people are gathered and vehicles are parked on the shoulders of the road.

"Our biggest fear is if people wander into the protest environment unaware of what's happening," Laney said.

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Only local traffic and emergency response vehicles will be allowed on Highway 1806 south of the closure. Alternate routes are available for through traffic.

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