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Dozens of pipeline protesters arrested over weekend sent to jails across ND

CANNON BALL, N.D.--Dozens of Dakota Access Pipeline protesters arrested over the weekend were sent to several jails across North Dakota, with the possibility of another "mass arrest" looming, an attorney representing arrested protesters said Wedn...

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Dakota Access Pipeline protesters huddle together Saturday in Morton County, N.D., as law enforcement officers stand nearby. (Photo Submitted by Morton County Sheriff's Department)

CANNON BALL, N.D.-Dozens of Dakota Access Pipeline protesters arrested over the weekend were sent to several jails across North Dakota, with the possibility of another "mass arrest" looming, an attorney representing arrested protesters said Wednesday.

The Morton County Sheriff's Department said 126 protesters, including two juveniles, were arrested Saturday. Another person was arrested Sunday, bringing the total count since Aug. 10 to 269, according to a news release from the Sheriff's Department.

Those arrested were sent to at least eight jails in North Dakota: the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center in Devils Lake, the Southwest Multi-County Correction Center in Dickinson, as well as jails in Morton, Burleigh, Cass, Stutsman, McLean and Mercer counties, said Donnell Hushka, a spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff's Department.

"As far as using them in the future, I guess we could say that we will reach out to jails as additional bed space is needed," she said.

It costs $75 per day for Morton County to house a single inmate at a facility other than their own, Hushka said, adding her department sent 58 protesters to other jails across the state. Morton County did not have enough beds to house inmates, resulting in the transportation of arrested protesters to other jails.

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"In most cases, misdemeanors have low bond and most people bond out the same day or the next day," she wrote in an email.

Angela Bibens, an attorney stationed at the camp who is representing those arrested during the protest, confirmed the transfers to other prisons, stating "there is potential for another mass arrest."

Protesters have gathered in Morton County to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline, a project that would ship 470,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken play in northwest North Dakota to Patoka, Ill., so it could be shipped to market in the Gulf Coast. The 1,172-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline crosses the Missouri River just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

People from across the country, including movie stars and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, joined the protest aimed at stopping the project, calling themselves "water protectors."

The charges against multiple protesters include trespassing on private property, breaching law enforcement lines and failing to follow orders from officers, but other illegal activity, according to Morton County, include using a drone to attack a helicopter and shooting arrows in the direction of law enforcement.

This week, protesters barricaded N.D. Highway 1806. Law enforcement met with protest representatives but negotiations to find a resolution broke down Wednesday, with camp coordinator Mekasi Camp-Horinek saying, "This is our last stand."

Multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Cass County Sheriff's Office, Grand Forks Sheriff's Department, Stutsman County Sheriff's Office and Grand Forks Police Department, have sent officers to assist Morton County.

It's unclear how much the arrests and housing protesters in custody has cost the state of North Dakota.

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The Southwest Multi-County Correction Center, which serves multiple counties in southwest North Dakota, has a contract to house prisoners for Morton County if the latter is over capacity, SWMCCC Operations Administrator Doris Songer said. The jail, which has 124 beds, averages about 90 prisoners but had 103 inmates Wednesday, she said.

It was the first time SWMCCC housed prisoners arrested during the protest, Songer said. All of the pipeline protesters in the jail's custody had been released from her facility on bond.

When asked if the jail would be prepared to handle any protesters who could be arrested in the coming days, Songer said the jail would take prisoners if there was room and if they were able to be housed in a dorm-style facility.

"Usually we only take residents that, for the most part, can be housed in a dorm situation," she said. "They would have to be able to get along with other people because we don't have as much individual housing."

Related Topics: CRIME
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