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Eight arrested in Calhoun protest

By Staff | Nov 7, 2016

Dakota Access Pipeline protesters Heather Pearson, of Logan, left, and Emma Schmit, of Rockwell City, wave their trespass citations in the air Saturday afternoon after being processed at the Sac County Jail following a protest in Calhoun County. Eight people were arrested during Saturday’s protest.

By HANS MADSEN

“mailto:hmadsen@messengernews.net”>hmadsen@messengernews.net

CALHOUN COUNTY – Eight protesters opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline were arrested Saturday afternoon in rural Calhoun County.

According to Ed Fallon, state director of Bold Iowa, the eight were part of a group of about 30 protesters that were on land owned by Shirley Gertjes, whose farm is crossed diagonally by the pipeline.

They were arrested when they went onto the easement being used by the construction crew.

Dakota Access Pipeline protestor Kate Wolf, of Des Moines, tries to give a thumbs up as she talks with fellow protestors after arriving at the Sac County Jail after being arrested at a protest in Calhoun County.

“We had a signed affidavit from Shirley giving us permission to be on her land,” Fallon said. “They were there at the invite of the landowner.”

Fallon said the arrests came quickly once the protesters crossed onto the easement.

“If there was opportunity to leave,” he said, “it wasn’t very long.”

Gertjes was upset with the arrests.

“I signed the papers,” she said. “They were still arrested. I own the damn property. I have no property rights, I ought to decide who I want on my property.”

Bennette Dibben, of Kansas City, Missouri, holds her handpainted protest sign outside the Sac County Jail Saturday afternoon while waiting for a group of 8 protesters to be released after posting bail on trespassing charges.

Calhoun County Sheriff William Davis said the protesters were given proper time to leave.

“They were given plenty of opportunity to leave the property,” Davis said.

He said that several of the protesters climbed on top of a dirt berm.

He expressed concern for their safety.

“There’s an eight- to nine-foot trench with a pipe in it just beyond that,” Davis said.

He wasn’t sure how many protesters to expect for the demonstration Saturday, he said, but there were several deputies and Iowa State Patrol troopers in the area and Davis had a school bus on hand to transport those arrested.

The continuing protest actions place Davis in a difficult position.

“I understand their cause. I understand they’re passionate,” he said. “I have to protect them and the pipeline. It’s unfortunate that we have to do it.”

During his interactions with the protesters, he’s appreciated the mutual respect between his office and the groups, he said.

Davis can often be seen visiting with them during protest actions. They’re friendly conversations. Both sides understand that everyone has a job to do and that the issues being protested are beyond all of them to solve.

“I don’t want these people to have a criminal record,” he said. “I appreciate their nonviolence. I’ve grown fond of them.”

The arrested protesters were taken to the Sac County Jail in Sac City for processing because Calhoun County does not have a jail facility.

A group of about a dozen supporters gathered outside to wait for their release after they posted bail and were given a court date.

They began to sing.

“No more pipeline in that land, no more pipeline in that land, no more pipeline in that land – where I’m bound.”

Heather Pearson, of Logan, and Emma Schmit, of Rockwell City, walked out of the jail together. They proudly waved their citations in the air to the sound of loud cheers.

Pearson, who’s been arrested at several other protests, praised the law enforcement who arrested her.

“Everybody was very kind to us,” she said.

She was already preparing her defense; she plans to plead not guilty.

“My argument,” she said, “I that I had justification.”

She said that, for her, being willing to be arrested is a reflection of her passion for the issue.

Schmit is concerned about the future.

“I have a 3-year-old,” Schmit said. “I want to have them have clean water.”

It was Schmit’s first arrest. She took it in stride and with a sense of humor.

“It’s nothing like the movies,” she said. “I didn’t even get put in a cell.”

The arrested protesters have been given a Nov. 10 court date.

Pearson isn’t concerned with the outcome.

“There’s nothing they can do to me that will be as destructive as that pipeline leaking into our rivers,” she said.

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