Friday, September 30, 2016

Rural white community fearful of Native American pipeline protest says activism is hurting harvest

The Dakota Access Pipeline runs
through Morton County, North Dakota
Farmers in a rural North Dakota county say the Dakota Access Pipeline protest is hurting them during one of the most critical times of the year, harvest season, Caroline Grueskin reports for The Bismarck Tribune. Morton County residents say they fear trespassers and vandals and that protesters are disrupting normal business operations. Residents in Morton County, which is 92 percent white and next to the state capital of Bismarck, have previously complained of safety concerns because of the protest.

"One man with pipeline on his farm said he has been staying there, instead of at home, so he can keep an eye on any protests that happen," Grueskin writes. "Another man said he's had 150 people on his property at a time and has been delayed by roadblocks and protests as he tries to harvest his crops."

Protesters say they have no interest in trying to intimidate locals, Grueskin writes. Tara Houska, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth, which raises awareness and financial support for Indigenous environmental justice, told Grueskin, "There's not a sentiment to go after private citizens. We understand the enemy is essentially the company that wants to put a pipeline through the river right next to Standing Rock Sioux Reservation."

Warren Zenker, president of the Stockmen's Association, which has endorsed the pipeline, said farmers have reported trespassers and "people have told him they're having trouble maintaining their farms and harvesting their crops because of roadblocks and protests." One resident, who said road conditions have kept a repairman from being able to fix his combine, said his land has been left vulnerable to weeds. He said "it also creates uncertainty about whether it will be available for farming and ranching next year."

State Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring has received 25 to 30 reports from producers ranging from fences being cut to hay being stolen to roads being blocked by masked activists, Grueskin writes. He told her, "There are numerous trespassing issues and just an overall lack of respect for property and the personal safety of our farmers and ranchers and their families." (Read more)

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