Energy

No Charges Filed Against Pipeline Protesters Who Caused Millions Of Dollars In Damage

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter

Two pipeline protesters who caused millions of dollars in property damage have gone into hiding, prompting many to wonder if they will ever face justice.

Construction workers were subjected unprecedented levels of protests from environmental and progressive activists when building of the Dakota Access Pipeline started in 2016. Protesters gathered by the thousands in an attempt to stop the completion of the crude oil pipeline that now runs from Illinois to North Dakota — cutting across Iowa along the way. Many of them resorted to criminal activity in the process.

President Donald Trump’s approval of the project in January 2017 has not deterred many of these pipeline protesters.

In what was an apparent public admission of guilt, Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya — two longtime activists — held a news conference on July 24, 2017 outside the Iowa Utilities Board’s offices in Des Moines to explain their own anti-pipeline activity. Reznicek and Montoya detailed a litany of crimes they committed as part of their “direct action” campaign to interfere with construction: Torching at least five pieces of heavy construction equipment in Buena Vista County, Iowa; using oxyacetylene cutting torches to destroy valves along the pipeline route through South Dakota and Iowa; and using gasoline-soaked rags and tires to set fire onto construction sites.

The damage caused onto the Buena Vista County site alone cost over $2.5 million. To put that into more perspective, Energy Transfer Partners — the operator of the pipeline — has been victim to at least $3 million in arson damage from protesters prior to November 2016, before Reznicek and Montoya claimed to have begun their campaign.

“Some may view these actions as violent, but be not mistaken,” Reznicek and Montoya stated during the year-old press conference, according to the Des Moines Register. “We acted from our hearts and never threatened human life nor personal property. What we did do was fight a private corporation that has run rampantly across our country seizing land and polluting our nation’s water supply. You may not agree with our tactics, but you can clearly see the necessity of them in light of the broken federal government and the corporations they protect.”

The two women were arrested after their public admission — but for a completely separate crime. Iowa troopers took Reznicek and Montoya in for vandalizing a state-owned sign outside the Iowa Utilities Board’s offices, facing only minor charges and a monetary fine they have yet to pay. (RELATED: Environmental Extremists Working To Stop Louisiana Pipeline) 

However, a year after their news conference, neither women have been charged with their admitted vandalism. It’s unclear if they will ever be held responsible. In fact, both women have since left Iowa and no one appears to know of their exact location.

“They have basically moved on with their lives. They don’t want anybody to know where they are, and they are not telling me,” said Frank Cordaro, a Catholic Workers activist who has worked with the two women. Both Reznicek and Montoya were involved in the Des Moines Catholic Workers’ social justice movement. Cordaro claimed they left Des Moines last September.

Reznicek and Montoya boast a long history of social justice activism. Before her Dakota Access Pipeline protests, Reznicek was involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Both women were involve in the “Mississippi Stand” anti-pipeline protests.

While federal prosectors have not divulged why charges haven’t been levied against the two women, there appears to be ongoing investigation into the matter. FBI agents in August 2017 raided their prior residence at a Catholic Worker House in Des Moines.

If they do decide to move forward with charges, finding them could prove difficult.

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