Arrests made at site of hog farm roadblock

By Chet Brokaw
Wagner, South Dakota (AP) 4-08

“We’re trying to remain peaceful and here they are antagonizing our people,” John Stone said of the April 22 arrests of 15-20 protesters for disorderly conduct.

A big truck carrying construction materials approached, and some protesters refused to get off the asphalt road past the site.

Police cars lined up across from the site of the protest.

The vice chairman of the Yankton Sioux Tribe blames county and state law officers for escalating tension at the site of a protest over a hog farm being built west of Wagner.

Seven cars from the South Dakota Highway Patrol and the Charles Mix County Sheriff’s Office arrived, and officers made the arrests. Sheriff Ray Westendorf said the people were arrested because they were blocking traffic.

People gathered across the road from the site watched peacefully as cement trucks rolled into the construction site. One protester yelled, “Get off our road,” but no one was blocking access by the afternoon.

Also, there were noticeably fewer of law enforcement vehicles at the scene.

The tribe started its protest during mid April. At one point, more than 40 South Dakota Highway Patrol cars were at the site, but the troopers left when the protest remained peaceful.

Representatives of Long View Farm, owned by 11 Iowa farmers, have said the operation could house an average of 3,350 sows and produce 70,000 pigs a year. The young pigs would be shipped to farms in Iowa when they are a couple of weeks old.

Construction is just getting under way, and the first hogs could be placed in the facility as early as September, developers said.

Tribal officials say they are concerned over odors and the chance of air and water pollution.

People involved in the project said it will cost $6 million to build and eventually will have 12 employees. It’s on private land under state jurisdiction, but it is near tribal land and only 4 miles from Marty, the tribe’s headquarters.

State officials say the hog farm has all the permits it needs.

Dave Nadolski of Sioux Falls, a lawyer representing Long View Farm, said the dispute is headed for a legal showdown.

“We’ll be winding up in court over this,” he told radio station WNAX of Yankton, adding that he’s not sure which court will get the case.

“I don’t know if the tribe has control over the demonstrators. I don’t know if Mr. Stone has control over the demonstrators, so I’m not sure who we’re going to name as a party to this action, this remedy,” Nadolski said.

He said his clients are thinking about asking for an injunction against the tribe and that Long View Farm will not be deterred by protests.

Some protesters have said they did not know about the hog farm until recently, but a lawyer for Long View Farm said representatives met with area farmers last fall and winter. Only three people called the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources after it published a notice last summer that Long View Farm had applied for approval to build the hog farm.

Stone said tribal members will continue a peaceful protest. The arrests happened when some people got caught up in the moment, he said

A blockade of the road lasted only about a half hour. Protesters let local traffic through but wanted to stop construction vehicles.

The arrests occurred south of the hog farm site after protesters heard that a construction truck was coming. The original blockade was on the north end of the road.

Some protesters asked law officers why they had to make arrests. A state trooper told them that officers had to keep the road open because that’s their job.

“I asked people to move. I didn’t want to arrest anyone,” the unidentified trooper said.

The tribe is considering several legal avenues, Stone said.

“I can’t disclose any of our legal strategies. There are a lot of fronts we are pursuing. We’ll pursue this until we’re done,” he told The Associated Press.

Stone said the tribe was seeking documentation from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to show that the road past the site is a tribal road, not a county road.

Frank Sanchez, chairman of a tribal employment committee, said the tribe had to take action after a meeting April 21 during which Long View Farm officials said they would build the farm despite opposition.

“We want to protect our children and our environment. We want clean air and clean water,” Sanchez said.

Long View Farm officials tried to assure area residents Monday night that they’re doing their best to make sure the operation won’t smell, pollute the air and water or harm people.

The crowd of several hundred at the Wagner armory was skeptical and frequently interrupted speakers with catcalls and shouts of “liar.”

As engineers and others involved in the construction spoke, people in the crowd held up signs saying, “Liar” and “Go back to Iowa.”