By Scott Russell
Approximately 50 Anishinaabe leaders, faith leaders, and environmental activists occupied an intersection in downtown Bemidji for about three hours Wednesday to continue to bring attention to the tremendous risks posed by the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline and to pressure Gov. Mark Dayton to take a stand opposing it.
Simultaneous to the Bemidji action, other water protectors occupied the anteroom at Dayton’s Capitol office with laptops to Live Stream the event. Twenty-six water protectors eventually received disorderly conduct citations from Bemidji police when they refused the order to disperse.
Dayton has declined to take a position on Line 3. For the past year, he has said he wanted to wait and let the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) make its decision. That decision came in June, and it was irresponsible. The PUC went against the advice of state regulators and the Administrative Law Judge reviewing the proposal and approved Line 3.
The project threatens Minnesota’s clean waters and the world’s climate. The main beneficiary is a large Canadian corporation.
Dayton’s silence is his tacit approval with the project moving forward. The action was meant to let Dayton know that opposition is not going away.
Call the Governor at 651-201-3400 or 800-657-3717 and let him know that you expect him to do everything in his power to ensure that the Line 3 tar sands pipeline is never built.
A New Chapter for the Sierra Club
I don’t usually put a byline on this blog, but felt it was important in this case because I was more than an observer; I was one of those cited for disorderly conduct.
I co-chair the Beyond Oil and Tar Sands Committee of the Sierra Club’s North Star Chapter and have been volunteering to stop Line 3 for the past two years.
Top Sierra Club leadership participated in the Bemidji action, and this was a significant step for the organization. Historically, it has not participated in non-violent direct action. There were only two exceptions, both in Washington D.C. This was the first act of non-violent direct action in which the Sierra Club has participated in outside of the capitol.
Sierra Club participants included: Loren Blackford, President of the national Sierra Club, Margaret Levin, director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter and Lois Norrgard, member of the North Star Chapter Executive Committee. (All received citations.)
The Sierra Club’s participation reflects the organization’s interest in doing more to support front-line communities working for environmental justice. Said Blackford:
Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline poses an unacceptable risk to Minnesota communities and our climate. I’m here today to represent millions of Sierra Club members and supporters in standing with our indigenous allies and sending a clear message to Governor Mark Dayton: stop this dirty tar sands pipeline.
In an email, Levin said:
So we are escalating our call to action to stop this project. This is not a decision I took lightly. … Civil disobedience has a long and dignified history of helping people speak truth to power. At this critical moment, I feel a great obligation and responsibility to do everything in my power to stand with allies, and fight for the clean energy future that we know is possible.
The Sierra Club media release includes a number of statements by participants. Others included Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth and Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network.
I am here to say, “Bimaadiziwin Nibi. Water is Life.” “I am here to say that our state should not be militarized and our people arrested and injured for a Canadian Pipeline Company. I am here because it is necessary to be here, to protect our Future Generations. I am a Water Protector.”
Several groups, including tribal governments, have filed legal challenges to Line 3. It’s critical that Minnesota not allow construction to begin before those challenges have a chance to be heard and resolved. As Goldtooth said:
Tribal governments and Minnesotans are telling Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to take immediate action through Executive Order to halt all permits and any pre-construction of the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline until legal appeals are heard, until the courts have fully weighed in, and the Minnesota Tribes have conducted … assessment and inventory of significant cultural and historical properties and sacred sites.
Call Dayton now and have your voice heard.
Other participants at the action included:
- Members of Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light (MNIPL), Rev. Dwight Wagenius, chair of the MNIPL Board, Buff Grace, Rector of Episcopal Church of the Ascension, and Thomas Schmidt, Interfaith Minister in Bemidji
- Kevin Whelan, Executive Director of MN350 and MN350 Action
- Youth Climate Intervenors Akilah Sanders-Reed and Isabel Watson.
For those interested in media coverage, here are the links:
The Bemidji Pioneer: UPDATED: Line 3 protesters hold rally, block streets in downtown Bemidji.
Rochester Post Bulletin: Rochester activists join Enbridge protest in Bemidji
Star Tribune: Several Line 3 oil pipeline protesters detained in Bemidji (A disappointing and brief AP story.)
Sierra: The National Magazine of the Sierra Club: Water Protectors Stage Civil Disobedience Against Tar Sands Pipeline