Branstad Gives State Troopers Go-Ahead to Arrest Anti-Pipeline Protesters on Wednesday [Updated]

A construction site along the Bakken pipeline's route in Campbell, South Dakota. Photo: Lars Plougmann/Flickr

Update, 8/29: Dakota Access LLC has filed a request for a restraining order against Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Bold Iowa, and individual leaders of the groups including Bold Iowa director Ed Fallon, the AP reports. The company also requested that protesters stay at least 25 feet away from construction easements to “permit the meaningful opportunity to exercise protected First Amendment speech while ensuring the safety of all involved,” and reportedly blamed protesters for the now $3 million in arson damage done to construction equipment along the pipeline’s route in Iowa.

Fallon replied to the move in an email Monday evening, calling it “unprecedented” and criticizing the company for reportedly tying the arson to protesters. “For Dakota Access to imply that I was involved with arson is borderline libelous,” he said. “My life-long commitment to nonviolence and the ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi are well-known in Iowa. I’m not going to be bullied by a big corporation that has forced this pipeline on landowners who just want to farm and enjoy their land and property.”

Original post: The Des Moines Register reports:

Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday he will authorize the Iowa State Patrol to make arrests and ensure that construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline proceeds if protesters follow through on a pledge to engage in civil disobedience in a bid to stop the $3.8 billion project.

The Republican governor told reporters at his weekly news briefing here that no one should break the law and anti-pipeline activists should accept a vote by the Iowa Utilities Board to approve the project, which will run diagonally through 18 Iowa counties.

As the Standing Rock Sioux await a court decision that’s expected to come by Sept. 9 to see if the construction site they forced to shut down in North Dakota will remain that way as a lawsuit alleging violations of federal historical preservation and environmental laws proceeds, activists in Iowa are preparing for a direct action of their own Wednesday in Boone County. That day, the anti-pipeline groups Bold Iowa and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement will host a civil disobedience training in Pilot Mound before traveling to an undisclosed location along the pipeline’s route to protest its construction. (An effort similar to the Sioux Tribe’s to temporarily halt construction as an eminent domain lawsuit filed by 14 Iowa landowners proceeds was rejected last week by the Iowa Utilities Board, the regulatory agency that initially allowed Dakota Access to build the pipeline.)

“I think that the construction workers and others who have been working on the pipeline have been very patient and they want to go back to work, and they should be permitted to do that,” Branstad told the Register. “The Utilities Board has made its decision, and I think it’s important that people respect and recognize that they were very thoughtful and had a deliberative process. It went on for a long time, but the decision has been made, and it should be abided by.” Ed Fallon, the former state lawmaker who runs Bold Iowa, told the paper he expects to see 50 to 100 demonstrators at the construction site Wednesday.

Branstad’s decision shouldn’t come as a surprise. In an email sent last Thursday announcing the plans, ICCI state policy director Adam Mason said, “For only the second time in our 41 year history, we are encouraging the use of civil disobedience and mass arrest as a key tactic in our pipeline fight.”

The last time was in 2012, when 10 ICCI members were arrested in downtown Des Moines at the corporate headquarters of Wells Fargo’s mortgage division while protesting the bank’s abusive lending practices that contributed to the financial crisis.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.