Block (Line 3) Party at the PUC: An Act of Celebration and Resistance

Part of the two-day Block Party opposing Enbridge Line 3 included a Water Ceremony at the Mississippi River, led by Sharon Day. (Photos by Scott Russell)
Camp Turtle Island erected a tipi in front of the PUC offices and members spent the night there.

In a month, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is expected to take a final vote on key permits for the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota. Indigenous and environmental groups kept up the pressure opposing the project by hosting a two-day Block Party right in front of PUC offices in downtown St. Paul.

It was called the “Block (Line 3) Party at the PUC,” and it was both a celebration and an act of resistance. The May 18-19 event included a meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton’s staff around pipeline issues, a community meal prepared by indigenous grandmothers, a silk screening tent, a water ceremony led by Sharon Day (an Anishinaabe Water Walker), community education, Line 3 updates, and a music concert featuring Annie Humphrey, Jayanthi Kyle, Thomas X and See More Perspective.

Rose Whipple, one of the Youth Climate Intervenors, spoke.

Line 3 is a bad idea, a proposal putting the interests of Canadian oil transportation giant Enbridge and larger oil processing firms over the interests of Minnesotans. Approving Line 3 would set a bad precedent for relocating other Enbridge pipelines throughout the state, increasing harm to the state’s environment, indigenous peoples, and anyone who cares about its waters. Several hundred people attended the event to show their opposition to the pipeline.

Debra Topping, a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe, and one of the Block Party organizers, was one of many speakers: “Every day I wake up there is something to fight about,” she said “Every single day we get up and fight for our wild rice.”

The event started at the Minnesota State Capitol, then participants walked to the PUC to start the Block Party.

The event started Friday at the State Capitol, where participants gathered on the Capitol steps to meet with Dayton’s staff. Minnesota was in the last days of its legislative session and participants pushed the Governor’s representatives to veto damaging legislation heading to his desk.

Annie Humphrey (Ojibwe) headlined the music concert.

One bill would legislatively approve Line 3 without conditions, this after the PUC has been reviewing the project for years, after the public has committed countless hours in stopping this project — and with the PUC only a month away from a decision.

A second bill, called “Guilt by Association” is backed by conservative business interests. It would make any group aiding or supporting individuals in non-violent civil disobedience on pipeline property civilly liable for any damage that occurs. While the Governor has indicated that he is opposed to the bills, his staff didn’t say he was committed to veto them. (At the time of this writing, final action on these proposal is unclear.)

Rory Wakemup and the silk screening operation.

Most of the two-day event was spend on the 100 block of 7th Place East, in front of Metro Square, where the PUC has its offices. Bill Paulsen and a group from Camp Turtle Island set up a tipi on the street; camp members spent the night there. It was a symbolic way for Native people to tell the PUC that they refuse to be invisible in this process. Turtle Island is a culture camp in northern Minnesota created to oppose Line 3 and assert Anishinaabe treaty-protected rights to hunt, fish and gather along the pipeline’s route

One of the t-shirts.

Rory Wakemup, a silk screen artist, set up a tent where people could bring their own t-shirts and get them printed with one of several different anti-pipeline designs.

Other volunteers did face painting for kids. Still others enjoyed playing with sidewalk chalk.

Why People Gathered

This event needed to be both a party and a protest. People have engaged in this work for a long time and sometimes you just need to celebrate together. With the final vote looming, people also needed to get re-energized and ready for whatever comes next.

Here are just some of the reasons that people continue to step up to this issue.

For Our Youth and Generations Yet to Come:

Face painting.

Youth leadership has been one of the hallmarks of the Line 3 opposition. The process recognized the “Youth Climate Intervenors” as one of the official groups to participated in the quasi-judicial process of the pipeline review. It recognizes that the youth of today will bear the biggest burden of whatever decision is made, and the resulting pipeline spills, climate change, and other damage.

A number of the Youth Climate Intervenors attended and participated in the event, including Rose Whipple, Akilah Sanders-Reed, Brent Murcia, and Sophia Manolis.

For Our Water:

Sharon Day, the Water Walker, noted that Line 3 is not the only threat to our water, and perhaps not even the gravest threat. Phosphorous and other contaminants are leaking into the groundwater every day. Yet we only have so much freshwater — and water is life.

There is no reason to add risks to Minnesota such as Enbridge’s major 2010 pipeline spill into the Kalamazoo River. We are making progress in reducing fossil fuel demand and increasing renewable energy resources.

To Honor Treaty Rights:

Bill Paulsen

This country has a long history of breaking its treaty promises with indigenous peoples. Line 3 seems to be no exception. The PUC process has not taken treaty rights seriously. Neither the Environmental Impact Statement nor the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) report on  Line 3 has taken a position on whether this proposal needs to take seriously Ojibwe treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather on large areas of northern Minnesota that the pipeline crosses. It is avoiding responsibility and putting the burden on the Ojibwe to sue.

Bill Paulsen of Camp Turtle Island addressed that issue Friday night: “I am the worst thing that has come at them this year,” he said. “I am an educated Indian with a treaty!”

For Our Democracy:

Block Party participants enjoyed the music concert. (Blue glass building in back houses the PUC offices.)

Public opposition to this project is massive. Sanders-Reed told the crowd that of the more than 72,000 public comments filed on Line 3, more than 68,000 were opposed to the project, or 94 percent!

This has been a learning process spanning several years for Water Protectors and other Minnesota citizens opposed to the pipeline. They have had to learn and follow a complex regulatory process, a process that gives foreign corporations undue influence.

Pipeline opponents have had to push back on corporate-backed proposals that would circumvent the process.

Block Party artists at work.

For Our Climate:

Among the disturbing findings in the project’s environmental impact statement is the fact that Line 3’s “social cost of carbon” are estimated at $287 billion over 30 years. That’s an extraordinary cost that Enbridge is shifting onto future generations.

Block Party organizers included: Stop Line 3, Youth Climate Intervenors, Honor the Earth, MN 350, the Sierra Club North Star Chapter, the Powershift Network and Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light. Other partnering organizations were the Facilitating Racial Equity Collaborative and Healing Minnesota Stories.

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