Lt. Tom Iverson discusses yesterday's DAPL protest activities at Backwater Bridge

Lt. Tom Iverson, North Dakota Highway Patrol Public Information Officer, spoke with us about yesterday's Dakota Access Pipeline protest events at Backwater Bridge on Highway 1806.

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

(Please note - this transcript was copied from an electronic captioning service. We apologize for any errors, spelling, grammatical, or otherwise.)

VIDEO:
“Heads up!”

Chris Berg:
Backwater Bridge, what you just heard S a gentleman yelling watch out. With a rock or something westbound thrown at our law enforcement from the quote, unquote, peaceful protesters. Someone out there please tell me how throwing rocks at another human being is peaceful. If you can answer that, text us, please let me know. Also there are protests in downtown Bismarck. They were demonstrating the pipeline as well as some of the police tactics that were used last night. More on that in a moment from North Dakota highway patrol Lieutenant Tom Iverson.

But first breaking news, a few hours ago, Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics are merging in a $20 billion merger. Please bring up this graphic. Energy Transfer Partners owns the pipeline. Kelcy Warren will remain as the CEO once they're merged. I had a chance to visit with Mr. Warren last Thursday. We were gonna play part one of my interview for you in the next segment. Please be sure to stay with us for that interview. There is just a ton of incredible information as to who and why it was moved from north of Bismarck to north of Standing Rock and much more.

Good evening and welcome to "Point of View." I'm Chris Berg. Thank you for joining us here on this Monday night before Thanksgiving. Back on October 27, roughly a month ago issues the DAPL protesters were burning cars and since then, the North Dakota Department of Transportation said we don't want anybody on this bridge until we've had a chance to inspect it until we can insure it's safe to use. The protesters were saying it's preventing emergency vehicles from getting to them and stopping them from getting to the piece of the pipeline that they really want to protest, which is the piece that goes below the Missouri river, so they're not able to protest there. This is where and why this stand-off took place last night. Here is an aerial view. You can see where the light is sort of, that's where the police are. All the other stuff are the DAPL protesters.

I want to share with you another shot here that's a little bit more close-up. You can see the stand-off. Obviously the men and women there in blue are our law enforcement. You can see barbed wire. All those other bodies are protesters. One of the other story lines coming out of last night, and I'm sure you've seen the video, was the fact that law enforcement was using a fire hose. Let me be clear, it was a fire hose. Not a water cannon as many other media outlets have been reporting, to spray water at the water protectors and below freezing temperatures in order to keep them at bay. It was reported by NBC news earlier today that 150 protesters were injured last night, as well as one law enforcement officer. We're going to give you the latest as to what's taking police. Right now from our Bismarck, joining us is North Dakota Highway Patrol Lieutenant Tom Iverson. First off, thank you so much for giving us some of your time. I was told that you didn't get to bed last night until 5:00 a.m. I'm sure you're exhausted. So thank you very, very much for being here.

Lt. Tom Iverson:
Hey, Chris. Absolutely. Thank you for having me on.

CB:
Let's start with the fire hose situation. Obviously that's been kind of the big talker of the day. You're go down to the situation. Why use the fire hose and who made the decision to use it?

TI:
You know, I do not know precisely who made the decision to use it. There is commanders down on scene that have to assess a situation day in and day out and when tactics are ramped up on behalf of the rioters, each and every day, we constantly have to analyze what resources are available to us and the fire truck seemed to be an efficient way for crowd dispersal. Now, just keep in mind that that is a law enforcement line on that bridge where we have been for the past -- well, since October 27. We have not advanced past that. Nobody forced people out of the camps to come to that bridge to break the law. We would never force somebody into a position where they are breaking the law. So they put themselves into that position. Law enforcement need to do react accordingly and the water from the fire trucks was used as a crowd dispersal and to avoid escalation into other tactics.

CB:
We're going to get to the other tactics in just a moment. If we can bring these pictures back up from the Backwater Bridge, please. When you look at sort of the stand-off, even if they were to move the cars out of the way, would they still be able to head north? 'Cause it looks like you have Barbed wire, cement blocks. How well is that blocked off?

TI:
That area right there is very well blocked off. There are two trucks that were parked there. One of them is now parked there because the riders took it upon themselves to illegally remove the truck. There are barricades there and razor wire. Now, it is their intent and we cannot look -- it's their intent to move north to commit additional crimes. It's within our best interest to stop that. They've made it very well-known that their intent is to move north to that pipeline corridor to trespass on that property, disrupt construction of that. Now, does that play into the optic of law enforcement protecting the pipeline? Well, it gives that appearance. But it could be anything up there. Somebody is constantly trespassing on land and constantly wanting to disrupt any construction of any sort. We're law enforcement. That's what we do. We stop that. And we uphold the law.

CB:
Lieutenant, let me ask you this, you said it's very well blocked off. I do want to speak to the context that nobody is ever really gonna be in your shoes. I don't think anybody in yourself can really appreciate what you all have been going through these past what is it now, 80, 90 days. When you say it's very well blocked off, why not let them move those cars? They're not going to move any farther north and why deploy the tear gas and the water and things of that nature?

TI:
Very good question. We're actually up over 100 days now, which has been a very long time. We moved the trucks is step one to gain access to the north. Obviously we need to remove the trucks out of there. Then you start removing the jersey barrier, raise the wire, hook on it with a chain, Yank it out of there. Plain and simple, they were trying to breach the line. Law enforcement is holding the line. We've been there. It's what we do and it's what the citizens expect of us. And they sent flanks to the east and around to the west side in order to flank law enforcement to gain access to the north and breach behind our lines. That's a dangerous situation to be in when they're that aggressive in getting north. So it's very important to hold that line for the protection of everybody.

CB:
Couple more and I want to get to what your last comment there in just a moment. But one last thing, there has been reports via social media allegations I should say, not reports, but there was a flash bang or concussion grenade used and it looked like a woman got her forearm ripped open. Any validity to these grenades being used?

TI:
You know, I've seen those Facebook posts as well. But we have to remember they are Facebook posts and there is a lot of false stories that are out there. Now, I'm not gonna just automatically say that this is completely untrue and false. It is something that we'll look into. I have not seen any videos, any photos other than what's out there on Facebook. So the injuries that were sustained or what appears were sustained look rather drastic. And I surely hope that's not the case. But remind people of being careful of what you buy into on Facebook.

CB:
Thank you. We did call down to the cannon ball emergency area and unfortunately, they said we cannot report any data. We'll try pursue that. One last thing, you mentioned this. All the tactics that we're using are for the safety of everyone. Sheriff Kirchmeier, and I'm going to share with you what he said at the press conference. Again, out of ignorance, never being in your shoes, give you a chance to speak to this. He said, number one thing has still been the safety for everybody and some of the actions that were taken last night were just for that purpose alone. Can never understand what you've gone through the last 90, 100-plus days, help people, especially the naysayers, understand how using tear gas, water, sponge bullets or whatnot, keeps everybody safe, especially in light of NBC news reporting there were 150 people injured last night.

TI:
You know, that is a very good question. Those rounds, less than lethal rounds are used to limit the escalation of tactics on behalf of the protesters. It is a way to utilize other mechanisms to avoid hand to hand use of force scenarios. It is apparent that they want to breach the line. They want to get up to us. The last thing we want to do is to go hand to hand with someone because that could and more than likely will result in injuries to either the officer or that rioter who is persistent on getting through the line. Utilizing water from a fire hose, that was a pretty effective means of crowd dispersal and to get them to back off. To back off that front line and to refrain from breaching the line. Those are all items that are used to protect our officers, whatever is north of us to include other citizens and farmers and ranchers that are north of us, and also for those protesters that are there to kind of disperse those rioters. Now, there are probably people there in the backgrounds that were nonviolent and we probably did not have any issues with them. But those right up front, those are violent agitators that need to remove themselves from that bridge. Plain and simple.

CB:
Lieutenant Iverson, thank you so much again for being here. I know it's been a long, long night. God bless you. We will talk to you again soon. Okay, sir?

TI:
Hey, Chris, I appreciate the opportunity. Have a good night.

CB:
Thank you. You too. Stay with us. When we come back, Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners exclusive TV interview for our area, talks about why the pipeline was moved from north of Bismarck, north of standing Ron and much more. Stick around. We'll be right back.



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