Date: February 1, 2017
Agency: Morton County Sheriff's Department
Contact: Morton County PIO (701) 426-1587 or (701) 595-3596
Mandan, ND – After repeated warnings to vacate a camp being illegally set up on private property in southern Morton County, south of the Backwater Bridge, approximately 76 members of a rogue group of protesters were arrested by law enforcement officials today.
Morton County Sheriff’s Department officers met twice on the Backwater Bridge with a group representing the rogue camp to discuss the illegal camp. The group was told they were committing criminal trespassing on private property and needed to leave immediately. The group was given a period of time to start dismantling the camp and leave. They did not show signs of starting to leave even after multiple warnings and said they would not leave. This led to the law enforcement decision to take action to enforce the law and evict the rogue group of protesters.
At around 3:30 pm law enforcement officers moved toward the location of the illegal camp and encountered a large group of protesters trying to block their way to the trail leading to the camp. The crowd was moved back with a few arrests and the officers proceeded to the illegal camp. They again asked the rogue protesters to leave the camp but the protesters refused to do so and began to use active resistance techniques.
“Our law enforcement officers conducted themselves in a safe and responsible manner,” said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier. “Regardless of this incident it is our desire to continue the dialogue with tribal and camp leaders so that the camps continue to be cleaned and protesters leave prior to the flooding season."
Law enforcement showed great restraint, enduring verbal abuse and taunts and protesters resisting arrest but did not make use of any less-than-lethal munitions. The camp was cleared by around 4:00 pm.
Representatives from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe coordinated with law enforcement and came to collect the teepee hides from the camp site to return them to the reservation.
The arrestees were transported to Morton County Correctional Center as well as the Mercer County Jail in Stanton, Cass County Jail in Fargo, Stutsman County Correctional Center in Jamestown and the Barnes County Correctional Center in Valley City.
Barriers were replaced on both the south and north sides of the Backwater Bridge.
The goal is still to continue working with Tribal officials and protest camp leaders to clear and clean the main camps before flooding happens and for protesters to leave the area.
Law enforcement has made 696 arrests during protest activity since August 10, 2016.