18 arrests at the Capitol after clergy join DAPL protest at Standing Rock

Nov 4, 2016

Police arrested 18 people -- including clergy members -- protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline Thursday on North Dakota’s Capitol grounds.

Faith leaders and protesters prayed and sang outside the Capitol. The group of 60 of various religions came from across the country to support a local tribe fighting the oil pipeline.

"It’s a sacred issue,' said Bishop Dwayne Royster, who's with a national network of faith-based community organizations. "it’s a moral issue, it’s an issue of indigenous communities having a right to their sovereign land without interference from the federal government."

Police say the group did not have a permit to be at the Capitol, and placed the building on lockdown. Officers arrested 14 already inside who refused to leave for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. Several were later arrested outside the governor’s residence.

More than 500 clergy from a number of denominations traveled to the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest, near the Standing Rock Reservation.

They joined protestors in praying and singing.

The Rev. Peter Morales of Boston is the president of the Unitarian Universalist Church. He said he responded to an invitation from the Bismarck congregation to come to Standing Rock.

"It was a stunning experience," said Rev. Morales. "I'll take away the sense of commitment these people have to protect the environment, and in protecting their heritage."

Morales also said he was surprised at the number of clergy who joined the event.

"They put out a call, and expected to get 50, or dreamed of 100," Morales said. "When more than 500 clergy show up, that tells me the concerns we have as Unitarian  Universalists are broadly shared by other religious traditions. That's so important."

"In my lifetime, I have never witnessed the kind of cultural transformation and commitment I see at the camps," said the Rev. Karen Van Fossan of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Bismarck, who put out the call for clergy. "This is the first time I've witnessed Clergy and other people of faith coming together in such a strong, prayerful, peaceful show of solidarity."