Protesters plan 'prayerful and peaceful' horseback ride along Dakota Access pipeline route
FARGO -- Winona LaDuke once had a dream about riding a horse against the flow of an oil pipeline. The dream inspired her to organize a protest ride along the Sandpiper route, a pipeline project planned for north-central Minnesota that's since bee...
FARGO - Winona LaDuke once had a dream about riding a horse against the flow of an oil pipeline. The dream inspired her to organize a protest ride along the Sandpiper route, a pipeline project planned for north-central Minnesota that's since been put on hold.
LaDuke, an activist, writer and environmentalist, said the same dream is now spurring her and as many as 80 other riders to travel 270 miles of the Dakota Access pipeline route. The riders will stick to the ditches of county roads, roughly following the path of the pipeline, she said.
"We are not intending to trespass," she said. "We are prayerful and peaceful."
The morning of Saturday, Oct. 8, the riders will depart from the Camp of the Sacred Stones near Cannon Ball, where protesters have been camping since April in opposition to the pipeline's planned crossing under the Missouri River less than a mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
LaDuke, a one-time running mate of presidential candidate Ralph Nader, said the ride will be a relay with five teams of riders, who will each cover about 20 miles a day and will sleep in tents or hotels. She said the ride is expected to end Thursday, Oct. 13, in Tioga.
LaDuke said she recently met with Justice Department officials and asked that the riders be given safe passage along the route. She said she wants to avoid confrontations with law enforcement officials using armored vehicles like the kind seen at other protests of the Dakota Access pipeline.
"Basically, my intent is to have them back off and not show a display of force," she said. "I'm riding with my grandchildren, and their mothers would be very vexed with me if they saw a gun pointed at me."
Rob Keller, a spokesman for the Morton County Sheriff's Department, said Mercer County Sheriff Dean Danzeisen is the point of contact for the ride, though law enforcement officials "will not be involved unless there is a public safety issue or concern to the motoring public."
Danzeisen said Justice Department officials contacted local officials about the ride, but did not make any specific requests. Law enforcement "has no issue with a lawful ride," the sheriff said. "We are not planning on stopping any ride."
The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday, Oct. 5.
A public forum to discuss the ride is set for 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 818 E. Divide Ave. in Bismarck.
LaDuke is also scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, at the Concordia College Centrum, 901 8th St. S. in Moorhead. Her topic will be "Justice and Sustainability: Economics, Food, and Energy for the Seventh Generation."