As Dubious Victory Is Celebrated in North Dakota, Water Protectors from Mississippi Stand Continue Disrupting DAPL Construction in Iowa

As some water protectors start returning home after perceived victory at Standing Rock this past weekend, a much less publicized resistance movement called Mississippi Stand have been staging direct actions for months against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Construction is still incomplete in Iowa and pipeline opponents are continuing to cause delays. On November 10, water protectors from Mississippi Stand shut down construction by crawling inside a section of pipe and refusing to leave, and #NoDAPL direct actions in Iowa have continued in recent days and weeks.

Precision Pipeline, LLC, contracted to carry out DAPL boring operations under the Des Moines River in Boone County, Iowa, has reportedly failed at least twice to bore correctly under the river, requiring them to restart operations multiple times, providing water protectors additional opportunities to halt work.

In the early morning hours of November 20, a group of water protectors converged on the drill site and locked themselves to machinery, forcing DAPL to eventually stop drilling operations for several hours.

That same day, two water protectors, Jessica Reznicek and Travis O’Brennan began a fast outside the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), demanding that IUB take immediate action to revoke DAPL permits in Iowa.

“Mississippi Stand Water Protectors start a fast in front of the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) in Des Moines, Iowa, after attending last week’s public board meeting by the IUB. At the meeting, Dakota Access LLC. gave an inaccurate account of the current status of pipeline construction. Public comments were made by landowners and other Iowans giving evidence of Dakota Access construction violations. The public called for the IUB to follow legal procedure and order Dakota Access to stop construction but the IUB failed to act.

Water Protectors are responding to these illegal activities of the privately owned Dakota Access and the lack of accountability from the Utilities Board by fasting until the Iowa Utilities Board acts in accordance with its own laws and regulations to cease construction based on investigation of violations from the out of state company Dakota Access.” Mississippi Stand statement, November 20 

On November 29, as the fast outside IUB was still underway, a group of approximately 25 activists breached a security perimeter of the site where DAPL is using a horizontal directional drill to bore under the Des Moines River. Video posted by Mississippi Stand shows a group of masked individuals climbing a fence, running onto the site, with some of them being tackled by security and then wrestling themselves free. Two people locked themselves to an excavator while the rest of the group continued running across the site and escaped into the woods.

“Security wasn’t able to contain things, and two protesters hooked themselves onto an excavator with this device,” Sgt. Cole Hoffman of the Boone County Sheriff’s Office told KCCI local news, adding that law enforcement had been called to the area around the drill site “as many as 50 times” in the past few months.  Both water protectors who locked themselves to the excavator were eventually extracted and charged with criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, and interference with an official act.

15319199_229366250819423_8334102208916920454_nThe next day, on November 30, the two water protectors who had been fasting for ten days outside the Iowa Utilities Board, Jessica Reznicek and Travis O’Brennan (shown left), were arrested after entering IUB offices and demanding a meeting with board members to address construction violations committed by Dakota Access.

On Thursday, December 1st, water protectors received word that the DAPL drill site on the Des Moines river had reached the “pullback” phase, which involves extracting mud and other underground byproducts generated in the drilling process. Mississippi Stand responded to this news by setting up a new camp in the ditch right outside the Des Moines drill site, with the intention of continuing to hold direct actions to stop DAPL from completing pipeline construction under the river.

“We are in Boone County, Iowa at the Des Moines river side where Dakota Access has been boring under the Des Moines river. Mississippi Stand has fought Dakota Access down in Keokuk at the Mississippi River, then we fought Dakota Access at the Skunk river, and now we’re here making our last stand in Iowa…everything here at this site indicates that pullback is about to happen today at this site, which is the last thing in this process…we have started an occupation in the ditch.”Alex Cohen, Mississippi Stand