Ongoing protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline took a violent turn Sept. 3, with local and out-of-state demonstrators crashing through a fence where vehicles were working. In the fracas, demonstrators and private security were injured.

Separately, a federal judge ordered Sept. 6 that some construction on the pipeline be halted, though other parts may proceed.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department, in NorthDakota, reported private security officers were assaulted Sept. 3 after about 300 protesters broke down a wire fence and broke into the pipeline construction area, which is on private property.  Protesters climbed on construction vehicles to halt work.

“Any suggestion that this was a peaceful protest is false. This was more like a riot than a protest," said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier. “Individuals crossed onto private property and accosted private security officers with wooden posts and flag poles. While no arrests were made at the scene, we are actively investigating the incident and individuals who organized and participated in this unlawful event," he said in a Facebook post.

The Democracy Now website framed the event as protesters being set upon by dogs and hit with pepper spray. Some had bloody wounds. At least one part of its video shows protesters dragging down what appears to be a private fence. Protesters were also seen on video riding on horseback through a crowd of people.

The sheriff’s department described the protest as an ambush and assault on private security.  Security officers told deputies they saw knives, were assaulted and that one was pushed off a construction crossing and his K-9 stepped on by a protestor’s horse.

A previous protest on Aug. 30 near the site of  the pipeline construction resulted in the arrest of several people, many from out of state. As of Aug. 31, 37 people have been arrested during the protests.

The $3.78 billion Dakota Access Pipeline is designed to connect Bakken and Three Forks production areas to Patoka, Ill, where tank farms are located. The 30-in. pipeline will stretch 1,172 miles and initially move about 470,000 barrels per day of oil (Mbbl/d). The line’s capacity could reach 570 Mbbl/d, which would be about half of North Dakota’s production from the region.

The pipeline will also generate an estimated $55 million in annual property taxes for North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. The pipeline is being constructed in close proximity to another line to minimize disruptions.

In July, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe asked a federal judge to halt the pipeline, saying it would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious and cultural significance.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg said Sept. 6 that construction to the east of state Highway 1806 would be stopped though construction to the west of the highway may proceed.

Dakota Access has signed voluntary easement agreements with landowners representing more than 85% of property owners along the pipeline’s four-state route. The land at the heart of the Standing Rock Sioux matter is also privately held and not under federal jurisdiction.

Bernstein Research said that protests are unlikely to derail the project.

“While proposed projects are more likely to suffer from political blowback [such as Keystone XL and Constitution], pipelines that have undergone the extensive regulatory process and are already under construction rarely get canceled,” Bernstein said in a Sept. 6 report.

However, a delay in the pipeline due to protests would hurt Energy Transfer Partners LP  and Sunoco Logistics Partners LP and their partners. Several producers could also suffer as they continue to rely on rail transport, which costs more.

“The delay would help stem the bleeding from the rails,” Bernstein’s report said. “Ultimately, however, we believe that falling production and more attractive economics will see volumes continue to shift from rails to pipelines.”

Darren Barbee can be reached at