Amnesty International USA called on state and local authorities today to remove a roadblock 25 miles north of the protest encampment — but North Dakota Highway Patrol maintains the barricade on Highway 1806 is necessary.
A delegation of human rights observers was at the scene last week and say authorities should remove the roadblock that diverts reservation-bound traffic to a detour route to the west.
Lt. Tom Iverson, spokesperson for the highway patrol, said no timeframe has been set for removing the roadblock.
"There is a reduce speed zone through that area, but, when there are impromptu marches on the roadway, it is not within our best interest to allow travel south through that location. That could have potentially devastating consequences that nobody would want," Iverson said.
The group asks Gov. Jack Dalrymple, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and the North Dakota Highway Patrol to meet with the protesters and community leaders and reminds them of their duty to facilitate peaceful protest.
“The U.S. government is obligated under international law to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of indigenous people, including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. It is the legitimate right of people to peacefully express their opinion,” the letter signed by Amnesty International spokeswoman Margaret Huang says.
Huang says the roadblock was initiated for safety and security, but its continued use hinders access to the protest sites and encampment near Cannon Ball. She says other means, including “no parking” signs and reduced speed limit warnings would address safety.
Jeff Zent, spokesman for Gov. Jack Dalrymple, supported the State Highway Patrol's actions.
The protests area will remain roadblocked for the protection of motorists and pedestrians in the area until law enforcement feels there is no longer a safety risk from impromptu gatherings at the highway, according to Zent.
Amnesty International will continue to closely monitor the situation and may return, according to Huang.
Standing Rock and dozens of other Native American tribes are gathered to protest the Missouri River pipeline crossing site, while waiting for federal court action on Standing Rock’s request for an injunction while it waits to hear if the court will require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a more detailed environmental survey of the crossing and include provisions under the National Historic Preservation Act.
The highway was barricaded Aug. 19 after 28 people were arrested and pipeline construction was halted.
-- Bismarck Tribune reporter Caroline Grueskin contributed to this report.
(Reach Lauren Donovan at 701-220-5511 or email@example.com.)
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