Idaho State Police and other law enforcement agencies had a potential powder keg on their hands with four nights of protests against shipments of over-sized equipment bound for the tar sands of Alberta, Canada.
The so-called mega-load took a snail’s pace through Idaho along Highway 12 and into Montana, where it will turn north to Canada.
Starting on the night of Monday, Aug. 5, and continuing over several nights until the big rig crossed the Montana border on Friday, Aug. 9, more than 35 people—most members of the Nez Perce Tribe—were arrested for blocking the highway.
According to this morning’s Lewiston Tribune, officers on the scene said they walked a fine line between leniency and protecting public safety.
“[W]hat we didn’t want to do was incite a riot,” ISP Capt. Lonnie Richardson told the Tribune.
According to Richardson, arrests were only made in cases where protesters refused to leave the highway after numerous requests. The Tribune reports that the Nez Perce Tribe—which opposes the mega-loads being hauled by Oregon-based shipping company Omega Morgan on several grounds, including that they pass through their reservation without permission—has about 30 cases awaiting adjudication relating to the protests.
In the meantime, the Nez Perce and Idaho Rivers United are awaiting a hearing at the U.S. courthouse in Boise on a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Forest Service Aug. 8, demanding the agency stop the shipments until a review of their impacts on the Wild and Scenic Corridor can be completed. IRU and the tribe are expected to ask for a restraining order halting Omega Morgan's next mega-load shipment, which is currently sitting near the Port of Wilma in Washington.