State of Intimidation: Minnesota law enforcement’s in-your-face approach to ‘Treaties Not Tar Sands’ rally

Winona LaDuke speaking Wednesday

What’s wrong with this picture? It implies a significant and violent threat where there was none.

The ‘Treaties Not Tar Sands’ rally at the Capitol Wednesday drew 1,000 to 2,000 people. It was a beautiful and powerful event. I will write more about it in the coming days. It deserves more attention.

Tonight, I’m focusing on law enforcement’s massive and intimidating response — and how rally-goers responded.

At one point I counted 33 officers on or near the front steps of the Capitol. And there were many others spread out around the Capitol complex.

The question is: Why is it when large numbers of black and brown people show up for some event, law enforcement feels compelled to use a show of force?

Given all the racial tensions around policing, law enforcement had to know this approach was bad optics. It did it anyway. That means law enforcement either had little concern about making people feel unwelcome, scared, and/or angry, or in fact that was the intention.

Arriving at the Capitol on Tuesday, I was surprised to see two law enforcement officers guarding the Capitol’s west wing. It was barricaded and fenced. No one was anywhere near this entrance. Yet there they were.

On Tuesday, law enforcement barricaded the streets all around the Capitol, including Cedar Avenue and John Ireland Boulevard. It eliminated both easy access and parking. Officers were staged at the barricades.

How much did that cost the taxpayers?

Closing John Ireland Boulevard next to the Capitol reduced event parking.

The only incident I saw Tuesday, if you can call it an incident, was a man yelling Bible verses and playing the ukulele. (Not surprisingly, this was annoying to some Native people who are tired of being preached at.) Some Native drummers eventually played nearby and drowned out the preacher man.

Uke-playing preacher man.

Later Tuesday, law enforcement brought in more concrete barricades. I’m curious what those barricades accomplished, as they are easy to hop over. Was law enforcement worried people would try to drive their cars or pick-up trucks up the stairs? The streets already were blocked.

That concrete represents a lot of fear.

Young water protector waves his flag as more barricades were put in place.

Sasha Beaulieu was one of several speakers Wednesday to call out the heavy law enforcement presence.

All of these fences, and there’s cops everywhere. I feel like they are trying to silence us and they are trying to cage us in like animals. I feel like they have been … trying to silence us for 500 years. We’re sick of it. We are not going away. We’ve been here since the beginning and we are going to be here until the end. I’m hoping that a lot of you are here to do more than just listen. … Stand up with us. This fight is a long fight and we are not going anywhere.

Sasha Beaulieu

Water protectors are used to dealing with police who view them as criminals. Law enforcement was present at Enbridge construction sites up north because Enbridge was paying them to be there as private security.

Renee Keezer speaks to the crowd at Wednesday’s ‘Treaties Not Tar Sands’ rally.

Winona LaDuke also called out law enforcement’s response. The water protectors are not the criminals, she said. Enbridge is the criminal. It’s violating Native treaty rights.

These officers ….
… were protecting the Capitol from this crowd. (Click to enlarge.)

As the afternoon wore on, some in attendance rose to embody their displeasure with police intimidation. To the east of the podium, they walked up to officers standing at the fence and were pretty much nose-to-nose. The officers walked away without incident.

These officers left when the crowd confronted them.

To the west side, a group briefly formed a line to act as a barrier between the officers and the speaker.

Participants formed a wall between officers and the podium. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

As I was leaving the rally, I walked by officers chilling at the Charles Lindbergh Memorial on the southern part of the mall.

Waiting for Godot.

This ubiquitous police presence is a form of violence. It intimidates. It undermines people’s sense of safety and belonging. It sends the message that law enforcement thinks you’re dangerous.

When Enbridge came to town with its climate-killing, treaty-breaking pipeline proposal, law enforcement responded by creating the Northern Lights Task Force to coordinate security arrangements with Enbridge. Yet when citizens come to the seat of government to seek redress, the police didn’t ask organizers “what would make you feel safe during this event?”

It’s just one more Walz administration failure.

The same Walz administration that ran for election opposing Line 3.

The same Walz administration that ran for election promising to address climate change, then approved a project that would create far more climate damage than state policies could ever offset.

The same Walz administration that issued an executive order promising meaningful consultation with Native Nations then failed to do so around Line 3.

I guess after Walz broke so many promises, he got worried the rally-going public would be mad.

His administration crafted a fear-based response to the rally. Much better had Walz taken stock of the situation, admitted he failed to live up to his word, and worked to set things straight.

[This Post updated Aug. 26 with Sasha Beaulieu’s comments.]

4 thoughts on “State of Intimidation: Minnesota law enforcement’s in-your-face approach to ‘Treaties Not Tar Sands’ rally

  1. Thanks Scott,

    Good to connect with you yesterday. It seems as if the police presence only reinforces that everyone is guilty until proven innocent and that we are at war. It all seems so unnecessary. Perhaps law enforcement leaders are too lazy to analyze the situation before developing a response. Their easy answer is to show overwhelming force.



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