Reflections on violence and justice along the Enbridge Line 3 route

Honor the Earth got pushback on its planned Aug. 18 music festival in Duluth, a fundraiser to oppose Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

A group of 11 northern Minnesota mayors and councilmembers wrote Duluth Mayor Emily Larson telling her to pull the event’s permit, claiming Honor the Earth has been involved in “violent” protests against the pipelines. “Honor the Earth has played a significant role in creating the dangerous and harmful environment surrounding the Line 3 pipeline replacement project.”

Winona LaDuke, co-founder of Honor the Earth, called the elected officials’ claims “scandalous” and “wrong.” “We haven’t led any violent protests,” LaDuke said. “We have been entirely non-violent and educational.”

“We spent eight years trying to make the system work in the legal and regulatory hearings and are now encouraging people to express their First Amendment rights.”

The letter writers were elected leaders from Thief River Falls, Clearbrook, Hill City, Park Rapids, Grand Rapids, Aitkin and Beltrami County.

Mayor Larson replied to them by email to say the show’s going on.

For one, she said, the city didn’t issue the permits, the DECC Authority did.

More to your point, however, is your ask to revoke constitutionally protected rights to gather in a public space for an event I may or may not personally agree with. If the group pulls the appropriate permits, follows the rules and pays the rental fees, we do not discriminate.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson email

LaDuke said the letter from local officials criticizing Honor the Earth only served to further divide people and generate fear.

“What Enbridge has done is poisoned the north,” she said. “There are brothers and sisters on different sides of this. There is increasing anti-Indian sentiment.”

Let’s take a look at the issues of water protectors and “violence.”

The Stop Line 3 movement is broad and includes diverse groups and strategies. Some groups write letters to the editor and Congress. Some participate in regulatory hearings and sue in court. Some organize big rallies and marches. Some speak to community groups. Some create inspiring art.

And some do things that get people arrested to draw attention to the great harm Line 3 is doing. It’s a sign that the issue is so important to them, that they are willing to put their body on the line. They might trespass. They might chain themselves to equipment. They might resist arrest.

In the grand scheme of “violence,” however, these examples are on the low end of the scale.

Now let’s look at Line 3 “violence” from the other side of the table.

The state of Minnesota approved Line 3 in willful ignorance of treaty rights. Red Lake, White Earth and Mille Lacs raised treaty issues over and over and over. Line 3 threatens their wild rice, the Anishinaabe’s sacred food. The complete disregard of treaty rights is violence against their status as nations and their freedoms.

The state allowed Enbridge to start Line 3 construction in December, before the coronavirus vaccine was available. A large influx of out-of-state workers arrived, threatening the health of northern Minnesota residents, notably Native Americans who have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic. Native nations asked for a construction delay and the state refused. That’s violence against people’s health.

Winona LaDuke in the Willow River July 6 near where Line 3 tunneled underneath. Photo: Keri Pickett.

Enbridge and the state of Minnesota did little to address the sex trafficking associated with large fossil fuel infrastructure projects such as Line 3. Native nations raised this issue over and over. Enbridge provided no transparency on arrests; the state did not require it. The state imposed no sanctions on Enbridge for Line 3-related sex trafficking. Anecdotally, we know four Line 3 workers were arrested in human trafficking stings. We know Line 3 increased service demands for shelters serving trafficked or abused women in the pipeline’s vicinity. We don’t know all the details, but we know there was more violence.

Lastly, the state approved a system whereby Enbridge reimburses local law enforcement for such things as training, new equipment, staff time and mutual aid. County sheriff’s are getting reimbursed for providing routine patrols of Line 3 construction yards, essentially serving as Enbridge’s private security.

A recent article in VICE reported law enforcement reimbursements have reached $2 million. That cozy relationship with Enbridge translates into aggressive enforcement.

“On July 29, a group of unarmed activists protesting the pipeline in Thief River Falls “were tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets, and arrested,” the article said.

So where’s the real violence?

In an interview, LaDuke said she didn’t have the riot gear, rubber bullets, a Long Range Acoustic Device or helicopters, like law enforcement does.

“I have some horses, some families, some kids, and some canoes,” she said.

Water Protector gets double the recommended jail time, Giniw says

A Hubbard County judge sentenced a water protector to 30 days in jail for protesting Line 3, double the recommended penalty by prosecutors, Giniw said in a Facebook post.

“The criminal code is being used punitively for political purposes against water protectors to intimidate and oppress,” it said.

Brock Hefel was convicted for unlawful assembly and obstructing a public right of way, according to Bemidji Now.

Giniw’s post quoted Bruce Nestor, Hefel’s attorney, saying Hubbard County Sheriff Corey Aukes “ordered the arrest of 29 people for standing in a grassy right-of-way by the side of the highway, holding signs and chanting in protest of Line 3.”

Hefel opted for a jury trial.

During jury selection, the prosecutor asked one question – who believes in Law and Order? It was a test to see how fast the potential jurors could put up their hands. The one Native American on the jury panel was struck for cause by the prosecution and the final jury was all white. …

Bruce Nestor, Hefel’s attorney

Water Protector Defense Fundraiser Aug. 27

The Climate Justice Committee, Women Against Military Madness and other organizations are organizing a fundraiser to help pay the legal costs of water protectors who have been arrested opposing Line 3.

The event is: Friday, Aug. 27, 7-10 p.m. at the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center, 788 E 7th Street Saint Paul, MN 55106. Facebook Event Page here.

Organizers are requesting $5-$25 at the door, but no one turned away. There will be a silent auction, dancers, music, speakers, and beverages/appetizers.

Half of the money raised will go to the Line 3 Legal Defense Fund, the other half will go towards bail money.

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