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OPINION: False claims hurt Dakota Access Pipeline protesters' credibility

They started as protesters. They prefer to be called protectors. But a better word is pretenders, because the claims being made by the people trying to block the Dakota Access Pipeline's construction are based more on pretense than in fact. That ...

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They started as protesters. They prefer to be called protectors.

But a better word is pretenders, because the claims being made by the people trying to block the Dakota Access Pipeline's construction are based more on pretense than in fact.

That ruins the protesters' credibility, and makes it very unlikely that they'll gain majority support from the voters they need to convince.

The activists near Cannon Ball, N.D., say they're peacefully protesting. But that's not the whole truth, at least not at the key moments over the past few weeks, including Thursday.

When the protesters step onto private property, they're trespassing. They're breaking the law-the very law they want everyone else, including law enforcement, to respect.

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That's why the police respond: It's not the protesting that's causing the arrests. It's the trespassing. There's a difference.

Activists say police are responding "violently." But that's not true either. The only reason police are responding at all is that protesters are first, breaking the law, and second, resisting arrest.

In such circumstances in America, police are authorized to use necessary force. That's what's been happening at the trespassing sites.

Here's something else: It wasn't the police who set fires on Thursday to get what they wanted. It was the protesters, who thereby turned civil disobedience into something looking very much like violent resistance.

Tribal officials say the pipeline will cross sacred ground. But no one raised that claim back in the 1980s, when the route was dug up for an earlier pipeline. No one raised it in the years since then, either.

Moreover, no one has presented any evidence in support of that claim at all. To the contrary, the evidence that's been presented contradicts the claim. Notably, it comes from professional archaeologists, who've walked the route a number of times and not found artifacts or human remains.

And on and on.

On Thursday, something else happened besides police arresting protesters who'd defiantly camped on private property. The governors of the states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa wrote the Army Corps of Engineers, asking that the final stretch of pipeline be permitted.

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The letter means that in some key sense, the protesters have lost the battle of public opinion.

Clearly, the people of three states that the pipeline will cross have considered the issue. (That includes the people of Des Moines, a city of 200,000 that sits only a few miles downstream from a pipeline crossing.)

They've considered it-and accepted it, as declared by their duly elected representatives.

"We strongly support" the pipeline project, say the governors, who also note that "further delay in issuing the easement will negatively impact our states and our citizens."

If there's a case for changing the pipeline-approval and tribal-consultation processes, America stands ready to listen. The activists' energy and commitment can almost certainly influence that outcome.

But on the issue of the Dakota Access Pipeline itself, the facts are much more on the pipeline's side. The protesters should recognize that reality and stop alienating would-be supporters by making false and exaggerated claims.

Editor's note: Dennis is the opinion editor for the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA
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