Lincoln Police prepare for all scenarios as pipeline protests near

By  | 

LINCOLN, Neb. - Local law enforcement officers are getting ready for what could be an eventful few days as a week of hearings over the Keystone XL Pipeline are set to begin.

Nebraska's Public Service Commission will begin five straight days of hearings regarding the pipeline on Aug. 7, and on Aug. 6, the day before the hearings begin, hundreds of people are expected to be on Lincoln streets protesting.

The Lincoln Police Department will be prepared.

"We have been working with the organizers for these particular rallies for almost three months now," Lincoln Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister said. "We are there to ensure the constitutional rights, the first amendment rights, whether you are a proponent or whether you don't want the keystone pipeline to come through."

Bliemeister said he expects hundreds, maybe even a thousand protesters to line the streets of Lincoln for the 'March to Give Keystone XL the Boot' on Aug. 6.

The Chief of Police said he is optimistic the protest will be peaceful, but the department is still taking every necessary precaution in case the event takes a turn.

While he couldn’t give specifics for security reasons, Bliemester said LPD is teaming up with a number of other agencies, such as Nebraska State Patrol, and the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office to make sure there will be enough law enforcement officers to keep the peace

In addition, the department will be fully staffed throughout the week, meaning no officer can take time off.

Also, officers with special training for protests will be on standby in case trouble arises

"Law violations (can be) blocking sidewalks, blocking streets, preventing traffic from flowing effectively, to escalating types of criminal acts such as property damage, or in the worst case violence against another person,” Bliemeister said.

Bliemeister added it's impossible to know how the protests in Lincoln will play out, but he's confident his department is ready for all scenarios, including the chance of a fringe protest group making an appearance.

"Currently, we believe that although these groups have showcased a presence in Lincoln, those that want to send a proper message and debate the issues will be in charge of this event and the other behavior will be marginalized," he said.

The department does have examples of other protests to draw from, however.

The Dakota Access Pipeline protests are being examined closely in preparation for the meetings, according to Bliemeister.

He said those provide clear examples of what went right and what went wrong, and the department will debrief, both externally and internally, after the protest is over.