Thirty-five frac sand opponents were arrested for trespassing at the Winona Port and another frac sand facility on Monday morning. The individuals blocked activity at both sites and refused to leave. A bevy of local law enforcement arrested the alleged trespassers while around 50 other protestors looked on and applauded in support as their companions were led away.
Photos by Chris Rogers
Frac sand protesters and Fraxine, the anti-frac-sand puppet, blocked traffic at the Winona Port on Monday morning.
The temporary disturbance brought business at both sites to a standstill. Several sand trucks were lined up at each site, waiting to unload. Business owners asked the protesters to leave so they could return to work. The protesters called for an end to the frac sand industry and said they hoped to shut down the two facilities for as long as possible. Police arrived at the port within minutes and began making arrests within a half hour. Business at the washing facility on Highway 14 was delayed for nearly an hour and a half while police were busy handling arrests at the port.
The scene at both sites followed similar scripts. "This is private property. You are trespassing. Please leave now," officers told the protesters. Protesters said they would not leave. An officer pointed to a protester and said, "You are under arrest."
One by one, the protesters were handcuffed and taken to the police station. They were referred for and charged with trespassing and released. Trespassing is a misdemeanor punishable by a 90-day jail sentence and/or a $1,000 fine. At least some of the protestors said they plan to plead not guilty.
The protests were planned by members of the Catholic Worker organization from around the Midwest. Over one hundred members were in Winona for a "Faith and Resistance Retreat" hosted by the Winona Catholic Worker group. Most of the protesters were not from Winona.
The group said they staged the protests to "demand that this industry—the corporations, state and local officials, and those who unjustly profit from this culture of consumption and greed—put an end to fracking and silica mining."
Protesters described the trespassing as a "non-violent direct action."
"We will not stand by and watch our landscape be forever altered by bulldozers, explosives, and semi-trucks. If there is no other way to stop that from happening we will simply stand in the way," said Diane Leutgeb Munson, of Winona.
"We're not here in opposition to the workers," said protester Steve Clemens, of Minneapolis. "We want jobs that protect the environment. Our protest is really with the corporate owners."
Dan Nisbit, owner of the company that is currently leasing the Winona Port and uses it to transfer sand to barges, said, "Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but it's a shame that they disrupt business." Business people who want to have their voices heard "do that at public meetings," he added. "Obstructing business is the wrong way to go about it."
When asked what made him think he had the right to take extra-legal action against the frac sand industry, protester Frank Cordaro, of Des Moines, said, "Civil disobedience is how social change happens. Every major social change in our country's history—from civil rights to women's suffrage—would never have happened without acts of civil disobedience."
"There's no reason for this," said one worker at the washing facility who declined to be named. He stood away from the action with his hands in his pockets, waiting for the disturbance to be sorted out. "We're just trying to put food on the table. I don't know why they're so against it. It's not that bad."
were not stopping
Protesters at the washing facility stated that two semi-trucks "played chicken" with them when they first arrived at the site, before the police and the press were present. Protesters said another truck drove at them "full speed," swerved at the last minute and "came within a foot of [one of the protesters.]"
The Winona Post was unable to verify those claims.
Company officials at the washing facility declined to comment as did the owner of the Braant Valley Excavating facility, Bob Hemker.
The Winona Police Department, with assistance from the Winona County Sheriff's Department, the Goodview Police Department, and the State Patrol, arrested 19 individuals at the port and 16 at the washing facility. Arrested were: Kyla Rae Sission, 25, of Minneapolis; Charles Douglas Thompson, 29, of Minneapolis; Joseph Morley Kruse, 24, of Minneapolis; Rebecca Mum Lambert, 29, of Mallow, Iowa; Matthew Francis Byrnes, 28, of Winona; Jerome William Berrigan, 38, of Kalamazoo, Mich.; Nikki Ann Fleck, 24, of Iowa City, Iowa; Julie Lynn Brown, 35, of Des Moines, Iowa; Brenna Cussen Anglade, 34, of La Motte, Iowa; Jacob Thomas Olzen, 29, of Lake City; Stephen Douglas Clemens, 63, of Minneapolis; Mark Benedict Becker, 27, of La Plata, Mo.; Rachel Adelaide Stoll, 25, of Milwaukee, Wis.; Daniel Arthur Wilson, 25, of Winona; Nancy Luechtefeld, 61, of Marvin, S.D.; William Clair Hesch-Braggeman, 27, of Winona; Diane Catherine Leutgeb Munson, 31, of Rushford; Barbara Ann Kass, 58, of Luck, Wis.; Michael Anthony Abdoo, 25, of Clinton Township, Mich.; Marie Elise Shebeck, 28, of Chicago; Ethan Nathaniel Hughes, 42, of La Plata, Mo.; Michael R. Miles, 59, of Luck, Wis.; Frederick Greg Anglada, 33, of Dubuque, Iowa; James Hunter Johnson, 24, of High Point, N.C.; Paul Christopher Freid, 36, of Lake City; Michael Timothy Leutgeb Munson, 30, of Winona; Edward Walter Bloomer, 65, of Des Moines, Iowa; John Edward Heid, 57, of Tucson, Ariz.; Roberta S. Thurstin, 69, of Milwaukee; Jared John Ingebretson, 27, of Minneapolis; Ashley Finch Walker, Batesville, Miss., 28; Frank Joseph Cordaro, 62, of Des Moines, Iowa; Katherine Leigh Wolf, 23, of Pulaski, Wis.; Jessica Rae Reznicek, 31, of Centerville, Iowa; and Cullom Joseph Cahill, 23, of Milwaukee, Wis.
Editor's note: Chris Rogers volunteers at the Winona Catholic Worker. He was not involved in the protests.