Bismarck ND Nov 30 2016 At least 33 Dakota Access Pipeline protesters were arrested early Friday afternoon at Kirkwood Mall in Bismarck. The majority of those assembled appeared to block the interior entrance of Target at the north side of the mall.
At 12:48 p.m., Bismarck Police responded to a call that at least 100 protesters were gathering at the mall.
Kirkwood Mall management maintained that neither protest activities nor open prayer was permitted on the property, and police warned the pipeline opponents -- many of whom had formed a prayer circle -- to leave or be arrested.
Mall spokeswoman Sarah Kotelnicki read a statement: "We had an additional police presence on property to ensure that protesters don't disturb the operations of the shopping center. They ensured the posted code of conduct was followed."
Kotelnicki said the pipeline opponents were in violation of the mall's code of conduct, which is posted at all of its doors.
"Protesters are allowed, but they are allowed off property, outside mall common area space. ... There was a suspicion this would happen," said Kotelnicki, adding the mall was not locked down at any time.
"Kirkwood Mall is a privately owned space, and we wanted to protect our shoppers and make sure the operations of the shopping center are upheld," she said. "We have a lot of faith in our law enforcement, and they did exactly what they are here to do."
Kody Kalb, an employee of D's Nuts, said the demonstrators initially ignored mall security's request to leave.
"They started chanting and refused to leave. Arrests were made, and even more people showed up to take videos of it," said Kalb, who witnessed at least 15 arrests. "It was short-lived. There was 80 to 100 and just as many bystanders. ... They were chanting 'Water is Life.'"
Shoe Dept. Encore and Grand China Restaurant closed their gates for a brief time, but later reopened them, according to staff at those locations.
Brian O'Keefe, of Sante Fe, N.M., a resident of one of the protest camps, was in the mall for Chinese food.
"Not only is the mission protecting water, it's become a much broader issue of protecting our rights — civil rights, human rights. I work with Amnesty International. I think it's critical we become aware of our human and civil rights that are being eroded," he said.
He denied that the pipeline opponents are agitating the situation and described Sunday's action south of Mandan as a catastrophe, characterizing the police action against the activists as going beyond what was necessary.
"I feel it is a very critical time in our history and a critical assortment of issues that need to be dealt with. Both sides will need to learn to deal with this. I know our side is not going to back down," he said. "The groups are trying to protect water, clean water, indigenous people's rights, sacred grounds, territory and broken treaties."