MINOT – A handful of Dakota Access Pipeline opponents took over the stage Wednesday as North Dakota’s top oil regulator spoke to an oil industry group’s annual meeting.
The elders of the Oglala Lakota Nation referred to the pipeline as the “black snake” as they took the podium and microphone while Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms was speaking to the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
“We want you guys to hear our voice and see us,” one woman said. “We’re not just some hashtag out there just making a scene. We want to be heard. We want you guys to understand that we are fighting for our lives, for our children, for our people, the way we have, our culture, our identity.”
Police approached the stage and warned the protesters they would be arrested if they didn’t leave. The group left through a side door chanting “Water is Life.”
Minot Police Capt. John Klug said the individuals left in their vehicles and no arrests were made. Although the group was “disruptive,” they were peaceful, Klug said.
Shortly before the group got on stage, a different group of five or six protesters was in front of the Holiday Inn Riverside in Minot and police had asked them to leave, Klug said.
Helms, who stepped off the stage while the group spoke from the podium, resumed his speech within minutes.
Event organizers had taken extra security precautions as thousands continue to camp north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline.
About 450 oil industry leaders attended the meeting in Minot, which concluded Wednesday.
Officers stayed on scene so attendees could safely leave the meeting.