ST. ANTHONY — More than 200 people protested at two work sites south of here on Monday morning in the wake of a federal court's decision to allow pipeline construction near the Missouri River to continue.
In the course of the demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline — which law enforcement termed a "riot" — 27 people, including "Divergent" actress Shailene Woodley, were arrested.
At one site, two protesters locked themselves onto equipment, according to law enforcement. At the other, several protesters staked out in a teepee erected alongside the exposed pipeline, while dozens stood off against police holding nightsticks at the entrance to the site.
Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney called it a riot, because of the number of people present, who were breaking the law and refusing to leave. He said there were threats of violence, though little actual violence. More people could be charged after law enforcement reviews surveillance videos, he said.
"There were a lot of behaviors today that took it up a notch," said Laney, who is leading operations for law enforcement, at a news conference Monday afternoon. "We are not looking for a confrontation, but we will make appropriate arrests."
Of the people arrested, most are facing misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass and engaging in a riot, Laney said. The two people who locked onto equipment will face felonies. About 85 officers were on scene.
Woodley was arrested for misdemeanor trespassing and engaging in a riot, according to Rob Keller, a spokesman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department. She bonded out from jail Monday evening.
On Sunday night, federal judges denied the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe an injunction, allowing construction to continue within 20 miles of Lake Oahe, a section of the Missouri River. However, the federal government is still halting construction underneath water there and asking the company to hold off working in the zone.
On Monday, the Departments of Justice, Army and Interior issued a statement repeating their request that the company voluntarily halt construction until they finish their review of issues raised by the tribe.
Jasmine LeBeau, who has been camping since August, said many people were upset by the court's decision and its timing with Indigenous Peoples Day.
"That just shows how they feel about us," she said.
Both protests Monday took place outside that zone, but Richard White, of Fort Yates, who was demonstrating at one of the sites, said he expects the protests to spread to that area since the ruling.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they start demonstrating down the line and across the river,” he said.
A spokeswoman from Energy Transfer Partners did not respond Monday to a request for comment on whether the company would continue work in that zone.
Authorities were notified about 7:15 a.m. that two protesters had attached themselves to construction equipment about 2 miles southwest of St. Anthony, Keller said. Protesters said they took off from the camps to demonstrate after a prayer at 6:30 a.m. They filed out of the demonstration site with the teepee around noon.
Highway 6 near St. Anthony, south of Mandan, was closed temporarily in response to the situation. The Wisconsin sheriffs who pledged to help in Morton County were among the officers present at the sites.
With the closure of Highway 6 and possible closure of 1806, Cannon Ball Elementary School and Solen High School along with schools in Fort Yates and Standing Rock sent students and teachers home over the noon hour. Little Heart School in St. Anthony was on lockdown.
A total of 123 people have been arrested in the past two months in conjunction with the pipeline protests in Morton County. The North Dakota section of the 1,172-mile pipeline intended to bring Bakken oil to Indiana is 87 percent complete.
An earlier version of this story misstated the status of Flasher schools on Monday. They were not on lockdown.
Reach Caroline Grueskin at 701-250-8225 or at email@example.com
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