MANDAN, N.D. — After back-to-back days of arrests connected to the Dakota Access Pipeline protest, Thursday was quiet for Morton County law enforcement but a busy day for the court as prosecutors filed charges against additional protesters.
Seven individuals are charged with reckless endangerment or conspiracy to commit reckless endangerment stemming from Tuesday and Wednesday incidents involving people who attached themselves to construction equipment.
The Class C felony charges, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, are the most serious charges yet in the nearly 70 arrests that have been made since the protests began about a month ago.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Office did not receive any reports Thursday about interference with pipeline construction, spokeswoman Donnell Preskey said late afternoon.
North Dakota’s congressional delegation on Thursday joined Gov. Jack Dalrymple in calling on the U.S. Justice Department to provide law enforcement resources to keep the peace during the ongoing demonstrations.
In a conference call with the Department of Justice, Department of Interior and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the delegation and the governor asked for both federal funding and additional law enforcement personnel.
“Since the administration created this problem, it has the obligation to fix it,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., referring to the federal agencies’ decision to temporarily pause pipeline construction north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. “It’s long past time to restore order.”
Assistant Attorney General William Baer committed to responding to the request on Friday.
In addition, the North Dakota leaders asked the federal agencies for a clear and timely resolution to the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
“If the administration wants to review the process for consulting tribes on public infrastructure projects, it should do so prospectively, not retroactively,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.
Also Thursday, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., condemned recent threats posted on YouTube by “Anonymous Agents” that target state officials, law enforcement, workers and pipeline company executives. The videos, featuring a computer-generated voice and a Guy Fawkes mask, threaten harm or the release of personal information.
Heitkamp said she reached out to the Department of Justice to authenticate the threats, determine where they’re coming from and how legitimate they are.
“Threats of violence cloaked in anonymity never have and never will have any place in North Dakota,” Heitkamp said in a statement.
One message is directed to Dalrymple and criticizes his decision to activate the North Dakota National Guard. Jeff Zent, spokesman for the governor, said the office forwards threats to law enforcement.
The YouTube videos, as well as other threats that have come through social media, are under investigation by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies that are assisting, Preskey said.
“There’s a lot of intimidation being directed at our law enforcement,” Preskey said. “We take all of these threats seriously.”
Cody Hall, a spokesman for the Red Warrior Camp, which is demonstrating against the pipeline, said the online messages from Anonymous Agents are not affiliated with the camp.
“We don’t know anything about ‘Anonymous,’” Hall said. “They’re a separate entity.”
Hall said he’s continuing to get calls and emails from people around the country who are unhappy with how law enforcement are treating the pipeline opponents.
“Morton County’s actions of racial injustice have only fueled more people to show up,” Hall said. “We won’t leave. We come from this land. We are protecting this land.”
Also Thursday, Morton County prosecutors filed misdemeanor trespassing charges against four additional people stemming from the Sept. 3 clash between self-described water protectors and private security guards with dogs and pepper spray at a Dakota Access construction site.
The four protesters charged were identified from video or Facebook posts, court records say.