Iowans have launched a new guerrilla-style initiative against the Dakota Access Pipeline to delay construction, joining thousands in neighboring states who fear it will contaminate groundwater and exacerbate climate change.
“I know the focus is on North Dakota,” the campaign’s mastermind, Ed Fallon, said in an interview with teleSUR. He noted the multiple Native American-led camps defending their sovereignty and lands from the pipeline. “But we’ve been fighting this hard all along when we learned about it back in July 2014.”
Iowa has the smallest amount of pipeline construction completed and the highest rate of landowners resisting attempts to force them to sell their land—the perfect formula for a win, he said.
Fallon’s front defending landowners and the environment, Bold Iowa, inaugurated the Bold Actions Teams on Wednesday—nicknamed BATs in honor of the bats whose habitats are threatened by pipeline construction. The group is coordinating a decentralized network of autonomous teams that will execute "pop-up," nonviolent direct actions along the pipeline’s route, which stretches almost 400 miles across the state.
Their first action on Tuesday blocked construction for 1.5 hours and was “very empowering” and a good indicator for future actions, Fallon told teleSUR.
Alongside three women—one with a cane, one with a dog and one just coming off of the night shift—Fallon first approached a construction work with small talk. They found out that the worker is from Minnesota and that only one was from Iowa—a counterargument to the jobs-creation argument—before greeting the supervisor.
“It’s the first time a dog has blocked a bulldozer in Iowa,” said Fallon.
Two security guards filmed the confrontation as back-up law enforcement from two departments showed up, said Fallon, until they left the property and headed to the next site.
The actions are spontaneous and unannounced to prolong the reaction, said Fallon, who came up with the idea after seeing that well-advertised and long-anticipated protests yield weaker results, enabling those being protested to better plan their responses.
A lawsuit is already under way against Dakota Access’s reliance on eminent domain, under which the government forces landowners to sell their property for private gain, but delaying construction in the meantime could help erode the company’s defense that the majority of the pipeline is already built.
Farmers are especially worried about construction damaging their soil and disturbing their sleep, essential during harvest season. Landowners are also furious, forced to sign away their properties if they want their full money’s worth, and robbed of both their land and of tens of thousands of dollars through eminent domain if they don’t. Cherokee and Omaha tribe members, some of them farmers, have also joined the protests.
Fallon, a talk show host and former state assemblyman, said he has already received 25 to 30 calls from interested Iowans after he announced the BAT campaign. Last March, he set out to spread the word by walking the length of the proposed pipeline, braving freezing weather to meet with the people in its way, hear their stories and share strategies against eminent domain.
One farmer had a cow die from falling in a trench built for the pipeline, according to Fallon.
Dakota Access vowed to continue construction last week, noting that 60 percent of the pipeline has already been built.