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Tom Iverson

Lt. Tom Iverson, of the North Dakota Highway Patrol, said Thursday's protest outside and inside the state Capitol was an illegal activity and, with multiple warnings, the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters refused to leave. Lt. Iverson also said the protest outside the governor's residence was illegal.

A total of 18 Dakota Access Pipeline protesters were arrested Thursday due to activity authorities deemed illegal on the Capitol grounds and near the governor's residence, according to Lt. Tom Iverson, of the North Dakota Highway Patrol. The incident resulted in a lockdown being ordered at 3:48 p.m. at the Capitol building.

Iverson and Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier fielded questions from the media Friday afternoon at Mandan City Hall.

About 15 to 20 people entered the east judicial wing, formed a circle in the atrium, but had not obtained a permit for a public protest, according to Iverson, who noted the action was preceded by a large number of vehicles entering the Capitol grounds.

Protesters ignored multiple warnings to vacate the area, he said.

"It was obvious they were there to get arrested. They were there for their commitment to civil disobedience," Iverson said.

Fourteen were arrested from the Capitol building for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. Iverson said the passive resistance involved "childish acts," in which protesters refused to stand or walk, forcing officers to carry them from the scene.

Another group moved toward lawn of the governor's residence and began protesting at about 5:15 p.m.

"They were warned multiple times to remove themselves ... and, once again, it was apparent they just wanted to make a statement and be arrested," said Iverson, adding the group, including clergy, did remain peaceful.

"We have to look back on prior actions that have been happening in the prior week and keep in the forefront of our minds that some of the people that have been creating these heinous acts could be in this group. As law enforcement, we cannot differentiate who is in the group and who is not," said Iverson, stressing that law enforcement was there to protect everyone.

Kirchmeier restated that law enforcement is not taking sides in reacting to protesters.

"You cannot break laws and violate other people's rights just because you or any other individual wants to protest .... It's private property that is being invaded .... We are protecting the rule of law. We are not protecting the pipeline," he said.

When asked about criticism of military tactics used against protesters, he said officers have to protect themselves.

"There's been rocks, logs, water bottles, sticks; they have wasp spray and bear spray .... As long as it is a legal protest, we will support and protect that. We will not stand and let unlawful activities occur," he said. "The only time anything happens is when protesters approach law enforcement and press the issue. We are forced to do what we need to protect the law." 

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(Reach LeAnn Eckroth at 701-250-8264 or