WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Oil Pipeline Opponents Face Eviction From Lee County Ditch

Oct 6, 2016

Opponents of the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline have maintained an around-the-clock encampment for several weeks in a ditch near one of the construction sites in Lee County. That could be coming to an end following the issuance of an eviction notice.

The people staying at the encampment learned of the notice from Lee County Attorney Mike Short Tuesday evening.

In the letter, Short stated that the county engineer had determined that the tents, signs, trash, and other items related to the encampment were obstructions to vehicles traveling along Mississippi River Road north of Sandusky. Short ordered they be removed from the ditch by Thursday, Oct. 6, though a time was not provided.

Spokesperson Alex Cohen of St. Louis said the pipeline opponents have no intention of leaving.

“We are not leaving and we are not going to stop shutting down construction,” said Cohen. “We will not stop until the construction is halted for good.”

Cohen said people at the encampment have been using social media to encourage others to join them prior to the eviction. He said an alternate site had been identified if they are forced to leave the ditch.

The social media campaign also included posting the phone number and email address for Lee County Attorney Mike Short’s office, encouraging people to call or email him and express their opposition.

People also gathered for a demonstration at the South Lee County Courthouse in Keokuk Wednesday afternoon.

Some held signs and chanted phrases such as “Water is Life,” “Stop the Eviction, Jail Mike Short," and "Free Jessica.” The latter is in response to the arrest of Jessica Reznicek, who founded the encampment. She was taken into custody for using old tires to block access to a construction site.

The others who arrived at the courthouse, including Cohen, had to go to the third floor to face a judge over previous charges related to attempts to halt construction of the pipeline.

Cohen chose to plead guilty to trespassing and pay more than $500 in fines and court costs. He said doing so would allow him to get back to the encampment and prepare for the next effort to halt construction of the pipeline.