Hundreds march on Peace Garden State’s Capitol, no arrests, Army Corps says DAPL construction “cannot occur”
By C.S. Hagen
BISMARCK – The Peace Garden State’s capital city was partially locked down Monday as Standing Rock and approximately 500 supporters hit the city’s streets in defiance of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Some schools closed. Roads closed. The North Dakota State Capitol Building partly closed. At least one school’s students were put into shelters, Bismarck resident Shane Balkowitsch reported, because activists marched down an adjacent street.
Balkowitsch, a wet plate photographer, watched his son’s choir concert later Monday evening sing “This Land is Your Land,” and could only feel sadness during the performance.
“You see, just four hours before at this same school there was a mandatory ‘shelter lockdown,’” Balkowitsch said. He received warning text messages on his cell phone about the action. “It turned out a peaceful group of DAPL protesters were walking down the street executing their First Amendment rights. The school felt this action was warranted to ‘protect the safety of the students.’”
Instead of sheltering the students, Balkowitsch said the school his child attends should have taken the opportunity for discussion.
“I was told that this ‘was not a political statement’ and I told them that is exactly what it was, and that fear-mongering should not be tolerated,” Balkowitsch said. The school had an opportunity to teach the children about the First Amendment and what it means, and that maybe someday they will want to exercise this God-given right.”
The First Amendment states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
“Doing a lockdown tells the children that there is something to fear and worry about, that what is happening is bad. It is not.”
“It was put in place to keep the large group from demonstrating in the capital,” North Dakota Highway Patrol Lt. Tom Iverson said. “The North Dakota State Capitol building was placed on ‘soft lockdown’ this morning after pipeline protesters converged on the Capitol from all directions. Approximately 500 protesters carrying signs, placards and chanting converged on the Capitol with several attempting to enter the Capitol building.”
The North Dakota State Capitol building was placed on “soft lockdown” around 11:30 a.m. Monday, with all exterior doors to the building locked and monitored by North Dakota Highway Patrol officers, Iverson said.
Activists gathered at the north and west entrances, and the south mall area of the Capitol, Iverson said. After 1 p.m. activists marched down Third Street toward the William Guy Federal Building.
“Law enforcement blocked off the roadway from traffic and lined up along the grass area next to the Federal Building. Protesters were notified that their actions of blocking the roadway were unlawful and they needed to return to their vehicles. The protesters slowly made their way back to the Capitol after approximately two hours.”
No arrests were made on Monday at the Capitol or closer to St. Anthony where approximately 50 activists marched on a Dakota Access Pipeline construction site, Iverson said.
“They proceeded onto the DAPL easement locked arm in arm, but were confronted by DAPL security personnel who gave them orders to vacate the private property.”
In what activists describe as good and welcome news, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported Monday that it informed the Standing Rock Sioux, Energy Transfer Partners, and Dakota Access LLC that it completed its review launched on September 9.
“The Army has determined that additional discussion and analysis are warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation’s dispossessions of lands, the importance of Lake Oahe to the tribe, our government-to-government relationship, and the statute governing easements through government property,” the statement reported.
Furthermore, the Corps invited the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to engage in discussions regarding potential conditions on a new easement for pipeline crossing that would reduce the risk of a spill or rupture, or “hasten detection and response to any possible spill, or otherwise enhance the protection of Lake Oahe and the tribe’s water supplies.
“While these discussions are ongoing, construction on or under Corps land bordering Lake Oahe cannot occur because the Army has not made a final decision on whether to grant an easement.”
Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access Pipeline, said one week ago that within 14 days it would be drilling under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. Energy Transfer Partners personnel could not be reached for comment; neither media personnel or the company’s CEO, Kelcy Warren, have returned emails or telephone calls since early August.
Last week, video footage taken by Indigenous Rising Media near the Dakota Access Pipeline drill pad route revealed hundreds of buffalo trapped behind fencing, and apparently without access to proper grazing areas or water, which prompted the Animal Legal Defense Fund to investigate.
“There have been threats of killing the buffalo by the construction company. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is confirming reports, collecting information, and investigating the legality of the treatment of these buffalo,” Animal Legal Defense Fund reported.
Morton County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that buffalo were fenced in near the DAPL pathway. “The owner wanted them moved to a different pasture,” Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported. “They were corralled to transport.”
Additionally, Morton County Sheriff’s Department has begun an investigation into the case of a DAPL worker who allegedly brandished a handgun and drove a Four Square Concrete truck and excavation equipment into a crowd of activists. At least one woman was injured during the incident, activists and law enforcement reported. As he drove away, the driver allegedly fired his pistol multiple times into the air, according to video footage.
“The case construction worker is under investigation. The woman was offered medical assistance bur refused treatment.”
Four Square Concrete LLC is a Mandan company registered in June 2013, according to the North Dakota Secretary of State, and is a “family owned and operated business,” according to the Four Square Concrete LLC website. The North Dakota Secretary of State lists Leonard Leingang as the registered agent.
Morton County Sheriff’s Department would not release the name of the DAPL worker involved, but a Facebook page entitled “Leonard Leingang is a Hero” has attracted national attention.
Facebook posts on the Leingang page denounce the man allegedly involved is a hero, among other various insults. Attempts to reach Leingang at the telephone number provided on the company’s website were unsuccessful.