FARGO - City Commissioner John Strand is asking for federal agents to monitor the protest at the Morton County construction site of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
Specifically, he said in a statement sent out late Tuesday, Oct. 25, that he wants "independent, expert observers" from the U.S. Department of Justice because of "escalating conflicts between law enforcement and activists."
"As a member of the Fargo Native American Commission, and as an elected official representing all citizens of Fargo, some there on assignment and others there to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, it behooves us to strive for a diplomatic, peaceful resolution to this complex situation," he said.
On Sunday, Oct. 23, Standing Rock Tribe Chairman David Archambault II called on the Justice Department to intervene and impose an injunction on construction at the site. Archambault has also asked the DOJ to investigate potential civil rights violations connected to the protest, a request former Vice President Al Gore has said he hopes is honored.
Many American Indians are protesting pipeline construction near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation because they believe it will disturb sacred sites and will pollute the Missouri River. The Morton County Sheriff's Department is on the scene of the protest but has asked other law enforcement agencies for assistance. Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney and his deputies are among them.
Strand himself accompanied several members of the Native American Commission to the protesters' Sacred Stone Camp to deliver a resolution of support in early September. He told The Forum then that he doesn't oppose oil pipelines in general but is worried about deteriorating relations with native peoples.
Nearly 270 people have been arrested since Aug. 10 in protests over the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline would carry Bakken crude oil to Illinois. The protest camp supports an estimated 1,200 people.
Federal officials have asked the company building the pipeline to hold off on construction within 20 miles of the river crossing until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes a renewed review of the river crossing. The company, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, has said it plans to resume construction and warned earlier this week it will remove anyone trespassing in the pipeline's path.