A District Court Judge in Aitkin County dismissed charges against water protector Shanai Matteson Thursday morning, on day two of her trial. Matteson was charged with “aiding and abetting” trespassing on Enbridge right of way during Line 3’s construction.
The jury had been selected. It had heard from two prosecution witnesses. Before calling any defense witnesses, and before the case went to the jury, Matteson’s attorney Jordan Kushner moved to have it dismissed.
Scrappy environmental and racial justice advocates rely on social media to get the word out about their work. Such was the case with water protectors organizing against the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.
At the same time, law enforcement increasingly tracks the social media accounts of individuals and organizations doing advocacy work. “This poses risks to privacy and free expression, increases disproportionate surveillance of communities of color, and can lead to arrests of people on the basis of misinterpreted posts and associations,” the Brennan Center for Justice said.
The Rally for the Rivers event held in the winter of 2021 is a Minnesota case study in law enforcement’s social media tracking. It’s also a jumping off point to look at the disparate treatment of water protectors opposed to Line 3 now facing criminal charges compared to the state’s weak response to Enbridge’s environmental damage.
Partnership for Civil Justice Fund seeks information on the ties between Enbridge, sheriff’s offices
Government transparency is critical to make the engine of democracy work. If we don’t know how and why the government makes decisions, we can’t make informed choices.
In the case of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, a greedy corporation and weak state regulators have scapegoated Native American water protectors and their allies as lawbreakers. Enbridge’s Line 3 construction has done more harm than the front-line activists, yet the company doesn’t face nearly the public scrutiny or penalties.
Information is power. What information is publicly available — or not available — shapes public opinion.
Law enforcement agencies put water protectors under the microscope and closely monitored their activities while state regulators allowed Enbridge to operate in the dark.
This imbalance in scrutiny is built into our public institutions’ structures.
And pushing back on Sheriff Guida’s claims his office didn’t take sides in the controversy
[The correct date for this blog is Nov. 11, 2021]
Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office will submit bills to the Enbridge Line 3 Public Safety Escrow Account for reimbursements for 4,800 hours of staff time dedicated to Line 3 work, Sheriff Dan Guida said in a statement issued Wednesday.
Specifically, the county will bill 4,373 hours for public safety responses and 450 hours for staff training on pipeline construction. Guida didn’t include a dollar figure for those costs. A back-of-the-envelop calculation estimates salary costs around $140,000. The final bill could go higher if it includes benefits, travel, equipment and other costs beyond salaries.
In his statement, Guida said his office stayed neutral on the conflict. That claim needs to be challenged.
Minnesota’s handling of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline has knocked another block from our crumbling wall of democracy.
Government leaders and institution have ignored their promises, rules, logic, and even their own experts to make decisions around Line 3 that benefit powerful elites rather than consider the long-term needs of the bulk of its citizens.
Minnesota’s shrinking newsrooms have fallen flat on their collective faces, too.
As one example, there’s been no substantial critique of the precedent set of having a foreign multi-national corporation using local police as private security. There’s been no analysis of the double standard where water protectors are treated as criminals while Enbridge’s environmental damage gets a tiny financial slap on the wrist.
Unchallenged by a counter narrative, people might accept the Line 3 story as business as usual.
What follows is a collection of alternative media articles that take readers where Minnesota media failed to go. It’s an effort to weave these stories together to show the extent of the systemic bias and disparate treatment in Line 3 policing.
This is laying down a marker as a reminder for the next pipeline struggle.
Minnesota law enforcement launched an over-the-top, fear-and-intimidation response to water protectors camped out in front the Capitol Friday.
The ‘Treaties Not Tar Sands’ rally had run Monday-Thursday on the Minnesota State Capitol Mall, calling on elected officials to shut down the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. It was a peaceful scene; roughly 20 tipis had been erected on the mall.
By late Thursday, a single large tipi remained. Native leaders were holding ceremony. Others were sleeping on the mall, according to one participant.
On Friday morning, law enforcement officers approached from multiple directions and swarmed the lone tipi. [Update: A media release from ResistLine3.org estimated 200 officers responded.] It as if they were trying to prevent a hostage situation or a bank robbery.
They demanded the tipi come down.
Indigenous leaders had to negotiate to be allowed to take the tipi down so that it could be saved rather than have law enforcement tear it down, one source said.
[Update: Six people had been arrested Friday.] The charges were not immediately known.
This situation raises significant questions about law enforcement’s bias against Indigenous water protectors and its ability to respond in proportion to the situation.
The current Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline is more that 50 year’s old. It’s badly corroded and only runs at only 50 percent capacity to reduce spill risks.
Monitoring tools inside the pipeline identify potential problems. When found, workers dig down to the pipeline, inspect it, and make repairs. This is called an “integrity dig.” Enbridge estimated the current Line 3 would need 4,000 integrity digs over 15 years for its safe operation. That’s a lot of digging.
There’s a lot more integrity problems than just one old pipeline. Our entire regulatory system has integrity problems, including its failure to stop the dangerous and unnecessary Line 3 pipeline.
Collectively, we need to dig into this corroded system, understand how it got so compromised, and fix it.
Indigenous water protectors are seeking an emergency Temporary Restraining Order against the Hubbard County Sheriff. It’s in response to a months-long campaign by the Sheriff’s Office of unlawful harassment, arrests, and efforts to block property access, they say.
This law enforcement response didn’t come out of nowhere, it’s been in the works for years. Enbridge and law enforcement have worked hand-in-hand to plan their response to Line 3 resistance. Enbridge is indirectly funding law enforcement’s Line 3 responses, buying law enforcement good will.
It pulled the curtain back on the “Northern Lights Task Force,” a group that was “stockpiling equipment and training police in preparation for Line 3 pipeline protests across the state.”
The coordination involved law enforcement agencies from states across the region including Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Documents showed that state officials had created an incident ‘Mobile Response Teams’ (or ‘MRTs’) to rapidly deploy and “confront any protest against the pipeline” in each of the State Patrol districts.
More than four months ago, when it began to look like the state would approved Line 3, Healing Minnesota Stories wrote the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to ask for basic information on the Northern Lights Task Force.
So far, the department hasn’t provided any information.