Law enforcement costs top $1.6 million for their presence during the August ‘Treaties Not Tar Sands’ rally at the Capitol

On Aug. 27, the day following the four-day ‘Treaty Not Tar Sands’ rally, law enforcement turned out en masse to evict anyone who hadn’t left. Photo: Maggie Schuppert

[Note: This updates an Oct. 26 post with new information. The Oct. 26 post has been taken down.]

Minnesota state government spent $1.6 million in law enforcement, concrete barricades, and chain link fencing to “protect” the Capitol during the Treaties Not Tars Sands event, Aug. 23-27, according to data provided by the Department of Administration and the Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Seven other agencies responded to DPS’s request for aid. Their costs are not included in that figure.

It’s another chapter in excessive policing of water protectors. It stands in stark contrast to the state’s lax response to Enbridge’s permit violations and the environmental damage done during construction of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota.

Winona LaDuke spoke at the rally. Law enforcement officers watched from behind concrete barriers and fencing while others patrolled the grounds.

In response to a data request, DPS said that it spent nearly $1.5 million for a Capitol security detail during the Treaties Not Tar Sands event. That covered salaries, meals, and lodging for the payroll period Aug. 22 through Sept. 6.

In addition, the Department of Administration said the state spent nearly $100,000 for concrete barriers and chain-link fencing for the event.

DPS requested assistance from other law enforcement agencies. Those responding were: The St. Paul Police Department, Metro Transit Police Department, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, Dakota County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officers. The St. Paul Fire Department also responded.

The staffing costs of supporting agencies were not included in the $1.5 million figure. DPS did not reimburse them.

The data request also sought “Documents that indicate the rationale for such a significant law enforcement presence at the event.”

DPS Major Joe Dwyer responded by email Sept. 7, saying the principle reason for law enforcement’s presence are “protected by a security data classification … [and] are not releasable at this time.”

People sat on the Mall, listening to speakers during the Treaties Not Tar Sands rally.

Law enforcement’s presence at the rally fits into a larger picture of excessive policing of water protectors.

In December, 2018, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) held an Enbridge Line 3 hearing in the state’s Senate Office Building. Sen. Patricia Torres Ray attended and was troubled by the law enforcement presence. She counted 42 Capitol Security cars in the parking lot, she said.

“We are building a system of exclusion and restriction, particularly on Native people and People of Color and young people of color, and it is just incredibly upsetting to me,” she said. “We need to do the opposite — open the door.”

The public had to walk by a heavy security presence before getting into the PUC hearing in the Senate Office Building in December, 2018. There were more officers inside.

The PUC approved a system where Enbridge reimbursed local law enforcement for Line 3 protection through an escrow account. It effectively made local law enforcement Enbridge’s private security team.

So far, the escrow account has paid law enforcement bills totaling $3 million and rising. At least one county sheriff billed for routine patrols of Line 3 work sites.

On July 6, water protectors arrived at the Willow River where Enbridge was drilling a tunnel for Line 3. They found what turned out to be a “frac-out,” the release of pipeline drilling mud into the river.

This is a permit violation.

Shanai Matteson, along with other water protectors, was standing in the river. DNR Conservation Officers were present, she said. They weren’t responding to the frac-out. They were intimidating the water protectors, threatening them with trespass charges even though they were on public right of way.

“Law enforcement was watching us and videotaping us,” Matteson said. “Nobody was taking water samples and no one was down by the water.”

Water protectors came upon a frac-out at the Willow River July 6. Screen grab of video.

Worse yet, Enbridge violated its own work plans, dug deeper than approved, and ruptured an artesian aquifer cap near Clearbook Jan. 21.

Enbridge didn’t report it as required. The DNR didn’t learn about it for nearly five months. The most significant penalty the state could impose was a $20,000 fine, less than couch change to a multi-billion-dollar multinational organization.

The aquifer had been draining at approximately 106,000 gallons a day, as of early October. It’s lost more than 25 million gallons.

There’s no indication it’s been fixed.

We can mobilize a massive response to people sitting on the Capitol lawn. Where’s the massive state response to protect our water?

[Note: A thank you to DPS for sorting out miscommunications. It had offered to provide two weeks of payroll information on the security detail, which I interpreted to mean it would include both rally-related expenses during the four-day rally and non-rally-related expenses. I wrote in the Aug. 26 blog that DPS couldn’t respond to my request. DPS followed up to say while the cost data covered a two-week period, it all related to the rally security detail.]

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