Group takes silica protest to another level

Protester Dan Wilson of Winona is escorted away by a Winona County sheriff's deputy during a frac sand protest Monday, April 29, 2013 at Winona's commercial dock on Riverview Drive. At least 40 people were arrested for trespassing and other minor offenses during the protest. (AP Photo/Winona Daily News, Andrew Link)
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WINONA — Dan Wilson was one of about 20 people arrested Monday for misdemeanor trespassing after blocking trucks loaded with silica sand from getting to a Mississippi River loading dock in Winona. But he believes the wrong group was taken into custody.

As far as the Winona man is concerned, police should have arrested those who own the facility for trespassing on the city with their sand, which can cause medial and economic problems.

"We are not the ones trespassing on the industry, they are trespassing on us," he said after he was booked and released. About 20 others were arrested at another site in the city.

Wilson said that according to state law it's legal to block actions on property where something illegal is being done. And he and the other protesters believe mining, transporting and using silica sand for hydraulic fracturing are wrong.

He hasn't decided yet if he will plead not guilty to the charge, he said.


Wilson was among about 40 people who took part in a weekend-long seminar on the problems with silica mining, then decided to stay on Monday to protest. Wilson was also arrested last year during an anti-silica protest in the Twin Cities.

He said mining the sand in Wisconsin, and to a much lesser degree in Minnesota, is bad for the environment and economy. The profits help only a few owners while boom-and-bust mining doesn't help local people. Also, silica sand is pushing land prices so high that those who want to get into farming can't afford the land, he said.

The sand is needed locally to filter water, he said, and the sand particles in the air can cause human health problems.

He and others from the group walked to the CD Corp. facility at the city's port and stood in front of trucks loaded with sand from Winona so they couldn't get to the port, he said.

"When we were asked to leave, we kind of discussed it as a group and decided we felt strong enough" that we would get arrested, he said.

Protesters have written letters to the editor, talked with local officials and did other things but to no avail, Wilson said. "We decided we needed to start making sacrifices," he said.

They were asked to leave by the company and then by police but declined, he said.

He was handcuffed and taken to Winona County Law Enforcement Center where they were booked and released.


Eileen Hanson, a member of the Winona Catholic Worker community, said the weekend seminar attracted about 100 people from several Midwest states. Those arrested at the CD Corp. site and another 20 or so at a sand-processing plant on the outskirts of Winona, were both local and from other states, she said.

"We're saying no to this dangerous and destructive industry," she said."This was just one more way of saying, 'Hey we have really strong concerns about this.'"

Hanson isn't sure what the next step will be. The local group has no immediate plans for future actions or protests but remains committed to stopping it, she said.

Frac sand protesters walk along Riverview Drive to the commercial dock Monday, April 29, 2013, in Winona. At least 40 people were arrested for trespassing and other minor offenses during the protest. (AP Photo/Winona Daily News, Andrew Link)

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