Two different courts have now heard complaints from both Native American and environmental extremist groups and rejected attempts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline project’s construction. One might assume that this legal process would be enough to see the various parties satisfied that everyone had been given their rightful hearing in court and, while perhaps unhappy, get us back on track. The reality is far different. The protests are not only continuing, but in some cases bending seriously toward even more incidents of violence. This might be tamped down a bit if there was full government cooperation, but thus far the White House doesn’t seem inclined to offer any real support for the victors in the legal battles.

All the while, people living in the area of the pipeline construction project – particularly those in law enforcement – are growing nervous that what is now merely unpleasant could turn seriously violent. And one big reason is that there are competing groups of protesters on site. Some are Native American tribe members who have largely followed the law, but others are imports from activist groups who are causing problems. (KFYR TV News)

But [state Sen. Donald] Schaible said the anti-pipeline demonstrations are becoming unmanageable because nobody is in charge at Sacred Stone.

“We’ve got three or four factions of different types of attitudes of what their mission is,” he said. “People are committed to protest their cause, and that’s fine. The thing is, it seems like it’s slowly escalating into more conflicts.

“That’s the scary part of it,” he added.

On one side you have the Sioux Nation’s concerns over their ancestral lands and the possible desecration of graves or destruction of cultural artifacts. While numerous inspections have failed to locate any such cultural materials along the planned route (where previous pipeline and power line work has already been completed) that’s a legitimate concern. The owners of the project must be mindful of these concerns and remain diligent in preventing any such destruction while keeping the tribes in the loop on their activity. But that’s not the same as the other groups who are there. They are protesting fossil fuels and don’t seem to give more than lip service to the concerns of the tribes.

Brian Kalk, part of the state’s three-member Public Service Commission, which approved the pipeline route, said much of the more aggressive opposition seems to have overshadowed the Sioux’s original complaints about the pipeline.

“I think the backdrop of this protest is there’s a group of individuals who are anti-fossil fuel, and they have melded a relationship with the tribes who have a legitimate concern about pipeline safety, which we all do,” the commissioner said from his office in Bismarck. “And now we’ve got the protesters down there, and they say no matter what the courts do, they’re going to stop this thing.”

Bryson said that in his experience, competing approaches are almost inevitable in large protests.

There have already been too many incidents which have either turned violent or led to intimidation of the construction crews and even the local authorities. There needs to be a stronger federal presence here, particularly since it’s federal property where one of the largest protest camps is located. Work ground to a halt while the various concerns were aired out in court but the process has been followed according to the law. The Obama administration may not like the decision of the courts, but they need to abide by it, protect these workers and restore order.

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