First Major Bakken Pipeline Protest Trial in Iowa to Begin Today

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Eli Shepherd via Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition

This morning, the first major Bakken pipeline protest trial begins in Iowa for Kriss Wells, who was one of about 30 arrested in a direct action last Aug. 31 in Boone County for trespassing after blocking access to construction equipment belonging to Precision Pipeline, a Dakota Access LLC contractor.

A number of others arrested during anti-pipeline protests in Iowa have had court hearings, but their cases were resolved through dismissal or plea deals before going to trial.

Wells, a grandfather, has pleaded not guilty to the trespassing charge under what’s known as a justification defense, arguing that his actions were necessary in order to prevent harm to future generations by attempting to halt the construction of the pipeline under the Des Moines River. “Iowa law requires the State to prove I lacked a justification, but I acted to curb global warming and protect water and future generations. We are already seeing its dire consequences,” Wells said in a statement released Monday by the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition of 30 groups across Iowa opposed to the pipeline, whose construction was since completed and which has already suffered three leaks.

The coalition press release also mentioned the recent and ongoing reporting by The Intercept based on leaked documents from TigerSwan, a private security contractor hired by Dakota Access to spy on protesters. The reporting, the coalition said, cited the Boone County Sheriff’s Department for having “behaved decently and treating the Water Protectors in Boone County fairly.” In one of the documents, TigerSwan criticized the department for “not [being] supportive of DAPL Security’s mission” because of their “reluctance to arrest or cite trespassing individuals.”

Wells was one of over 500 people arrested in Iowa during the anti-pipeline protests by the coalition’s count.

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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.