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Protesters Say They Expect More Direct Efforts To Block Pipeline Construction

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Trans-Pecos Pipeline opponents gathered to protest at a construction site off Highway 90 near Marfa, TX. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

Native American groups and some Big Bend-area residents gathered to protest the Trans-Pecos Pipeline near Marfa on Sunday. 

Drums mixed with the sounds of heavy machinery as opponents gathered at a construction site for the natural gas project off Highway 90. Activists said at one point about 50 people hopped a fence onto the site. Pipeline opponent David Keller described what happened.

"In the very beginning when they arrived, they did cross the fence, so there was kind of the cops and Border Patrol massed to try and deal with it," he said. "There wasn't any altercations I don't think, everything was peaceful, so they backed up."

Mark Glover said he was confronted by a Presidio County Sheriff's Office deputy after stepping onto the site.

"I might've gotten a little too far out, and [Deputy Mitchell Garcia] came over and grabbed me, and pinned me up there by the outhouse," he said.

Video of the confrontation surfaced Monday afternoon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNPZFQKU42M&app=desktop

Glover said protest leaders had what he called “negotiations” with authorities, and that ultimately there were no arrests. Protesters eventually moved back off the site to the side of the highway.

Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez was later at the scene, but would not comment.

Frankie Orona with the San Antonio-based Society of Native Nations was one of the protest organizers. He said he told police to expect more physical action from opponents aimed at blocking the pipeline - similar to what’s been happening in North Dakota with the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline.

Activists there, led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, have been fighting that project being built by Energy Transfer, the same company building the Trans-Pecos Pipeline.

“I think it’s gonna happen, I think it’s inevitable," he said. "I think there’s going to be a camp out here, I think there's going to be a camp just like Cannonball [in North Dakota], whether it’s that big or not I don’t know, but the people are starting to rise up and say ‘enough is enough.'"

Orona said he also told authorities that pipeline opponents "expect resistance" and also expect some to be arrested in the future, but he asked for different tactics than those used by police in North Dakota.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.