Public opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline is growing in the tri states region, be it through marches or vigils. Pipeline opponents hope that continues this weekend when their efforts move to the next step: civil disobedience.
Jessica Reznicek arrived in Lee County a couple weeks ago. Upon her arrival, she was arrested on two separate occasions for trying to halt the construction of the crude oil pipeline, which would span from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to a facility in central Illinois, passing through South Dakota and 18 counties in Iowa.
Reznicek decided after her second arrest that it would be better to establish an around-the-clock protest encampment along River Road north of Sandusky, Iowa. She said it has allowed her to better inform people about her opposition to the pipeline and to bring more of a spotlight to the cause.
The encampment started out as a couple of small tents and a homemade canopy for shade. It has grown to include about a half dozen tents and large canopies and a couple more permanent residents. Reznicek said what helped with the growth was a march on September 10 that drew about 130 people.
"It warmed my heart," said Reznicek when asked about the size of the crowd. "I said a little prayer in my tent the night before for people to show up and definitely people did.
"We had a lot of local presence and that's important to me because I want this to be a grassroots, up from the bottom kind of movement, self-sustainable. But, ultimately, I want to see three times that this upcoming Saturday and have it continue to grow exponentially going forward because, ultimately, what we want to see is what is going on in North Dakota."
Reznicek said that organizers plan to participate on September 17 in civil disobedience in the form of a sit-in at a pipeline construction site. She said the goal is to stop the construction of the pipeline in Lee County.
"We are talking about a peaceful sit-in demonstration to stop the machinery for as long as we can," said Reznieck. "It depends on the numbers, but what I would really like to see is for us to enter the site. If we have low numbers, we will do some road blockages, but with the local response I have heard, I think we will have a lot of people turn out."
Reznicek said participants in the sit-in will need to be prepared to be arrested for entering the construction site. She said a training session will be held prior to the sit-in so people can find out how far they are willing to go.
“We don’t want to get anybody up there and out of their comfort zone too far because what happens is there is a pushback and then it turns not-peaceful," said Reznicek. "We want it all to remain peaceful and non-violent obviously."
Reznicek said those who are not comfortable with being arrested can still help. She said the goal is to get as many people actively participating as possible.
That was also the goal of a vigil held outside Nauvoo as part of a national day of action against the pipeline. A couple dozen people from Illinois and Iowa as well as out-of-town opponents used the Mississippi River as a backdrop to voice their opposition to the project.
Molly Lovelock of Lomax organized the event. She was thrilled with the turnout, adding that she did not know if anyone would attend.
"I talked to somebody who said, 'You know, post something [online] that you are doing something. Even if only you show up, it's worth doing,'" said Lovelock. "I truly believe that because I truly believe that we are standing in solidarity with thousands of people everywhere."
The conversation during the vigil lasted about an hour, shifting from the environmental impact of the pipeline to questions about why the Iowa Utilities Board would even allow it. Participants even encouraged each other to continue supporting local media outlets so they could pay to have journalists reporting on the pipeline.
Lovelock said she believes a lot of people are in the dark about the pipeline, adding that as more people find out about it, the crowds of opponents will grow.