CANNON BALL, N.D. – A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday to protesters interfering with Dakota Access Pipeline construction as pipeline opponents continued to grow in numbers.
U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland granted a request from Dakota Access LLC to issue a temporary restraining order to Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault, Tribal Council member Dana Yellow Fat and other defendants.
The order prevents the protesters from unlawfully interfering with pipeline construction or workers’ access to the site.
“Lawful assembly and peaceful protest is the hallmark of our democracy; however, threats
of physical harm or violence and criminal activity is unacceptable,” Hovland wrote in the order.
Meanwhile, pipeline construction near the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation was on hold on Tuesday as numbers of pipeline opponents continued to grow.
“We’re ready for 5,000 campers,” said Joye Braun, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network. “People are coming from all over the world.”
Yellow Fat said he’s met people from every state and some foreign countries, including Germany and Italy.
“It’s grown exponentially,” he said. “They understand what we’re fighting for and they understand that water is a right. Clean water is a right, it’s not a privilege.”
Standing Rock opposes the Missouri River crossing because tribal members fear a pipeline leak would threaten their water supply and other sacred sites. Standing Rock has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which issued a permit for the pipeline, and a hearing is scheduled for Aug. 24 in Washington, D.C.
Tribal leaders have been in discussions with law enforcement about the protest, including addressing concerns about safety for protesters along Highway 1806, Yellow Fat said.
“We’ve got to find a way to make it a little safer for everybody,” Yellow Fat said.
Those demonstrating range in age from young children to tribal elders. Marcella LeBeau, 96, a Cheyenne River Sioux elder was among those enduring hot temperatures Monday to sit in a ditch adjacent to the road being used to access pipeline construction.
“I wanted to support the Standing Rock people. My ancestors are from here,” she said.
Braun, who was the first to set up the Sacred Stone Camp near Cannon Ball on April 1 to protest the pipeline, wiped away tears after additional supporters arrived late Monday to join the demonstration.
“We as campers of Sacred Stone Camp feel overwhelming love,” said Braun, wearing a shirt that read “Mni Wiconi,” water is life.
While the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has received support from many other tribal nations, the protest is not limited to Native Americans.
“All races have come because this is not just a native issue, this is a human issue,” said Dustin Thompson, who is among those at the Sacred Stone Camp.
Although most of those demonstrating have remained peaceful, emphasizing prayer over violence, several have been arrested for disorderly conduct.
Dakota Access says in court papers that Chairman Archambault, Yellow Fat, five other named defendants and “Jane and John Does” have “engaged in increasingly obstructionist and dangerous behavior” to prevent pipeline construction. The company says in court papers that at least two protesters were armed with knives while others threw bottles and rocks at vehicles or made threats.
“We are disappointed that there are those who will put the lives of others in jeopardy,” said Lisa Dillinger, a Dakota Access spokeswoman. “We will continue to put the safety of our workers and those who live in the area as our top priority.”
Yellow Fat said Tuesday he hadn’t been served with the restraining order, but he said it wasn’t necessary.
“All I’ve asked for is peace and prayer,” he said. “Why would they want to keep me from praying and keeping my people safe?”
Dakota Access states in court records it costs more than $75,000 for each day of lost construction, and the damages are expected to increase significantly for each day construction is halted.
A hearing is set for 2:30 p.m. Aug. 25 in Eagle Courtroom of the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota in Bismarck to determine whether a preliminary injunction should be issued in the Dakota Access suit against the protesters.