The Obama administration has come under fire for aligning itself with activists fighting a North Dakota pipeline project even as the protest at the 2-month-old encampment spirals out of control.
An extreme faction within the enclave of 1,500 to 2,500 protesters camping out near the Dakota Access pipeline, or DAPL, is terrorizing the rural community with threats, vandalism and theft, as well as forcing road closures and school lockdowns, according to law enforcement.
“Our deputies talk to the farmers and ranchers, and many of them fear if they talk — and the media really wants to talk to them — but they fear retaliation if they give their name or let their picture be taken,” said Rob Keller, a spokesman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department. “Because we’ve had all kinds of reports of people defecating in their driveways, of fences being cut, of being harassed by masked protesters, shooting at signs, pay bills being stolen and being run off the road.”
The heightened lawlessness culminated Monday with the arrests of 27 activists, including actress Shailene Woodley, on charges of criminal trespass and rioting as the hundreds swarmed a private construction site near St. Anthony.
Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said the melee was neither “peaceful” nor “prayerful” and that some protesters “say that, but they disguise their criminal behavior behind it.”
“While some would like to say this was a protest, this was not a protest. This was a riot,” Sheriff Laney said at a press conference. “When you have that many people engaged in that kind of behavior, inciting others to break the law, cheering on others as they break the law, refusing to leave when they’re asked to leave, that’s not a protest.”