Ten ways structural racism permeated Enbridge Line 3 decisions, and continues to influence them

Structural racism has played a significant role in Enbridge Line 3’s approval and law enforcement’s responses to water protectors.

Structural racism, as defined by The Aspen Institute Round Table on Societal Change, is:

A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead it has been a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist.

Aspen Institute on Societal Change

Here’s a top ten list of structural racism in Line 3 decisions. Got more to add? A critique? Submit them in the comments section, below.

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Local media fails to cover Line 3’s harms; Michigan cites treaty rights to justify revoking Line 5’s easement

Local media has provided pretty thin coverage of Enbridge Line 3’s harms, including recent news about the human trafficking sting that included the arrests of two Line 3 workers.

The Star Tribune ran one story on the arrests; MPR hasn’t run even one, according to searches of their websites.

The Native American community and allies repeatedly raised concerns about the link between projects such as Line 3 and human trafficking. They warned state regulators about the risk and real-world harm to women and other relatives.

As we wrote yesterday, the PUC approved Line 3 without providing meaningful accountability for Enbridge to monitor and address human trafficking problems. The public has no way of knowing the extent of the problem beyond the recent arrests. No government agency is tracking information about Line 3’s harms, including sexual harassment and human trafficking.

If there’s no data, people are left believing that there isn’t a problem. The fact is, we know little because regulators aren’t looking and local media isn’t reporting on it.

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PUC doesn’t have to answer for Line 3-related human trafficking problems

Nor is it going to hold Enbridge accountable for them

It took me along time to get this through my head, but there’s no mechanism in place to hold the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) accountable for its poor decisions, or even explain them.

I wanted the PUC’s comment about recent reports of sexual harassment and violence towards women by Line 3 workers. The PUC was warned about these risks when it permitted Line 3. Was the PUC concerned about this news? Had the PUC been in contact with Enbridge or law enforcement about these issues? Does the PUC regret putting such lax conditions in the Line 3 permits?

These seem like basic questions, the kind any state agency would feel compelled to answer.

But the PUC isn’t a state agency, it’s a “quasi-judicial” body, more like a court.

Will Seuffert, the PUC’s executive secretary wrote: “[N]either I nor any staff member can speak for any of the Commissioners, and they speak through their written orders. The agency cannot provide any explanation beyond what is included in the written orders.”

So who holds the PUC accountable?

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Law enforcement’s double standard on Line 3 public safety

Indigenous women rally at the Governor’s mansion, tell Walz to shut down the pipeline

On Feb. 22, a few people were seen throwing a package into an Enbridge work area in Carlton County. (Later, it was described as electronic-style devices making audible noises.) It was deemed a bomb threat, but turned out to be a false alarm. Fingers were immediately pointed at water protectors. Law enforcement’s response created a backlash against the water protectors at Camp Migizi.

The response: Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake, along with other local officials, decided to evacuate the 40 homes within a half-mile radius of the device. This was a larger evacuation zone than needed for a truck packed with a half-ton of TNT. Lake also called in the FBI. “Emergency alert” texts were sent out about an “explosive hazard” reaching people as far away as Hibbing and Duluth..

On Feb. 24, two days later, news broke that a human trafficking sting led to the arrests of seven men, including two Line 3 workers. According to one of the men arrested, he learned about the website where he could meet young girls from rumors at work. (That website turned out to be the sting.) In a media release announcing the arrests, Itasca County Attorney Matti Adam said: “What this operation tells us is that there is demand to sexually exploit young people in Northern Minnesota.”

The response: So far, not one public official has pointed a finger at Enbridge and demanded a response. This much we know: There is a “demand to sexually exploit young people in Northern Minnesota.” Where’s the text alerts — or their equivalent — warning northern Minnesota families of this threat?

Which is more dangerous, a buzzing electronic-type device or a sexual predator?

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News and Events: A rally, a book launch, a river gets ‘personhood’ and more

In this blog:

  • Rally against Line 3, MMIW, at the Governor’s residence Saturday at 1 p.m.
  • Book launch of Seed Keepers, a new novel by Diane Wilson, March 9
  • ‘Memory March’ in Grand Rapids tomorrow (Wednesday) recalling largest inland oil spill in U.S. history
  • Gizmodo: Facebook favors pipeline companies over water protectors
  • LaSalle Valley flyover (two-minute video)
  • Quebec’s Magpie River to be granted legal personhood, a first in Canada
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Carlton County Sheriff defends half-mile evacuation zone when electronic devices were thrown into Line 3 work area

Racial profiling, racial fear, seem to be in play

Camp Migizi, an Indigenous-women-led Line 3 frontline resistance camp, got criticized last week following a bomb scare at an Enbridge worksite that turned out to be a false alarm.

Last Monday, Feb. 22, Carlton County received a 9-1-1 call reporting a “suspicious device,” the Sheriff’s Office said. A news story called it “a suspicious package thrown into a pipeline construction area.”

Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake said today the incident was still under investigation and she couldn’t give many details. “What I can tell you, it was a couple of electronic-type devices that were making audible noises.”

Responding to the incident, Kelly along with other local officials, decided to evacuate the 40 homes within a half-mile radius of the device. She also called in the FBI. The law enforcement response raised community fears and generated ill-will towards the camp. The Fond du Lac Band government said the incident “created widespread public safety concerns.”

A truck bomb with a half-ton of TNT wouldn’t have required such a large evacuation area, according to federal data. Local law enforcement’s response seemed like a major overreaction. Lake defended her decision.

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Two Line 3 workers arrested for soliciting sex as part of human trafficking sting

The Duluth News Tribune reported Tuesday that two of the seven people arrested in a northern Minnesota human trafficking sting were Enbridge Line 3 workers, “fueling concern that construction of the oil pipeline is bringing a higher risk of sex crimes to the area.”

Arrested were:

  • Michael Kelly West, 53, of Rolla, Missouri, who was charged with one count of carrying a pistol without a permit and one count of solicitation to engage in prostitution.
  • Matthew Ty Hall, 33, of Mount Pleasant, Texas, who was charged with one count of solicitation of a person believed to be a minor.

The sting involved web ads that engaged potential customers in sex-for-money conversations, the story said. Perhaps of most concern, West told arresting officers he heard about the ads “from rumors at work.”

That means this isn’t an isolated incident; other workers are talking about it.

[Update: StarTribune story here.]

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News and Events: MMIW virtual events, Migizi gets new digs, Line 3 frontline fundraisesr and more

In this blog:

  • MMIW virtual events Feb. 11-14 (instead of the annual Feb. 14 march)
  • Film screening to fight Fossil Fuels – Necessity: Oil, Water, and Climate Resistance, a two-week long fundraiser for Line 3 frontline resistance (Feb. 5-21)
  • Workshops on Parallel Trauma and Line 3, Feb. 8-10
  • Latest round of Line 3 law enforcement bills under $4,000
  • Miigizi gets news digs!
  • New info graphic: Map the Blake Snake
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To stay current on Line 3, follow Indigenous social media

State issues MMIW report, and other new and events

In this blog:

  • List of Indigenous social media links to stay current on Enbridge Line 3 resistance
  • Fundraiser for Indigenous media makers covering front-line Line 3 resistance
  • First report from Minnesota’s MMIW Task Force
  • Jesuits return 525 acres to Rosebud
  • Cleveland baseball team to change its name, just not right away
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