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35 arrested in Winona frac sand protests

35 arrested in Winona frac sand protests

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Frac Protest

Protester Dan Wilson of Winona is escorted away by a Winona County sheriff's deputy during a frac sand protest at Winona's commercial dock on Riverview Drive. About 35 people were arrested for trespassing. (Andrew Link/Winona Daily News)

Thirty-five people were arrested for trespassing during a large protest against frac sand Monday morning staged at two separate locations in Winona.

The Winona Police Department arrested 19 people at the city's commercial dock, after they were asked multiple times to leave the private property. Officers than responded to a frac sand processing plant on Winona's west end, where they arrested another 16 people for trespassing there.

Protesters said their goal was to halt business operations at each site.

"I think people see that the issue of silica sand is something affecting the entire region," said protester Molly Greening. "They've come to stand in solidarity with this issue."

Dan Nisbit, the owner of CD Corp., which leases the commercial dock, said the protest created a distraction for workers and temporarily slowed operations at the facility.

"Obstructing business isn't the right way to go about things," Nisbit said.

Winona Catholic Workers organized the protest, reaching out to area residents who oppose the frac sand industry, as well as others in the region's Catholic Worker community.

The protest was part of an annual celebration of the regional Catholic Worker community, and volunteers from Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan and other states in the Midwest traveled to Winona to participate.

Catholic Workers and others in the Winona area have protested the industry for more than a year. They have blocked a rail loading terminal, demonstrated at the steps of the Winona City Hall prior to a city council meeting on frac sand regulations, and held other rallies.

"As Catholic Workers living with the poor and marginalize, we come to this land to prevent the desecration of this land and the health of this community," they wrote in a statement sent Sunday evening to area media outlets.

"We declare Monday to be a moratorium of business as usual at the sites of production of silica sand to eliminate a necessary component of fracking."

There hasn't been a history of citations or arrests at any of the demonstrations, though during one rally at city hall in May 2012 a protester was cited for littering after he threw a handful of frac sand on the front steps.

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