Number of protesters at Dakota Access pipeline construction site causes traffic concern

Published: Aug. 17, 2016 at 6:25 PM CDT
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More protesters from across the country are showing up at Dakota Access pipeline construction site near Highway 1806.

Therefore, hundreds of vehicles and tents are lining the road and authorities say it's becoming a traffic concern.

It's taken just about a week for the number of protesters to far exceed several hundred, and with more on the way, law enforcement is stepping in for the safety of everyone.

It's estimated that more than 1,000 people are protesting on Highway 1806. The growing number has caused law enforcement to take action.

"Cars parked on both sides of the road, periodic blockages, just traffic issues," Capt. Eric Pederson, North Dakota Highway Patrol

Highway Patrol officers established a traffic control point on Highway 1806 six miles south of Mandan to help. It will only allow resident and emergency traffic southbound. Through traffic will need to take an alternate route. It's all part of a safety plan during the protest.

"Our biggest point now is we want to be able to reevaluate what is happening and be able to get control of the situation, not only for the public safety part of it, but so no one gets hurt," said Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, Morton County Sheriff's Department.

Kirchmeier says their greatest concern is safety, and they've received reports of vandalism and weapons in the area. Tuesday a temporary federal court order stated protesters cannot interfere with construction or threaten workers, but protesters say they have a right to be there.

"they're just trying to get more people on their side, as far as U.S. Marshals or somebody like that to come in and be active in this but we're peaceful," said protester Ryman Lebeau.

The group is expected to triple in numbers by the end of the week.

Sheriff Kirchmeier says for now, construction is not taking place at the site. It's unknown when it will pick up again.