NEAR MANDAN, NORTH DAKOTA - The pipeline protest in North Dakota almost got out of control on Saturday. Within minutes of a protest starting the Dakota Access Pipeline construction site near Mandan, chaos erupted.
A driver in a truck that was trying to get down the public road where people were protesting, attempted to drive through the crowd. The driver then began brandishing a gun.
In the crowd of a few hundred were people from Colorado, who had come up to North Dakota to protest the pipeline.
“I’m a little afraid. I just saw that man run over the disabled elder with the walker and wave his gun at him and continue to try to run over him and it was terrifying,” said Melanie Montoya-Wasserman, who lives in Telluride.
Simon Moya-Smith of Denver said he was not phased.
“That’s just intimidation,” he said. “We know who has the weapons and it’s them, not us.”
Moya-Smith said he feels a special connection to this area because of his heritage.
“Denver is a relocation city. That’s where they moved Native Americans into big cities, when they found oil and minerals on my reservation,” he said, referring to the federal “Urban Indian Relocation Program” of 1952. “This is my ancestral land – this is my Ireland, this is my Italy, this is my Africa. This is our land."
The pipeline skirts part of the boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The final piece of it that’s missing would need to go under part of the Missouri River watershed, which is the reservation’s source of drinking water. A permit for that is pending before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“They’re not looking out for the water, they’re not looking out for the next generation of children,” Moya-Smith.
Despite the chaotic start to the protest, it ended quietly.
“We’re peaceful people and this was a peaceful response and now we’re going to go back to our camp and we’re going to pray some more,” Moya-Smith said.
9NEWS reached out to the North Dakota State Patrol and the Morton County Sheriff’s Office, who were at the scene of the protest today. They would not comment.
This was just the latest protest against the pipeline. The main protest camp started in April. It could all end up in litigation, which the tribe has filed against the Army Corps in federal court.
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