After three protesters were arrested on Monday at a Minnesota construction site for Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, more than 50 water protectors on Tuesday marched onto an easement—with two people locking themselves to an excavator—and temporarily shut down work on the contested tar sands project.
“The group, led by Anishinaabe warriors from Camp Migizi, then gathered at a sacred site, which has been desecrated by the pipeline’s construction, to pray,” according to a press statement from Line 3 Media Collective.
“Our state laws are not working in the public interest and for the public good. We are endangering future generations… and that’s got to stop,” declared Charles King, one of the water protectors who locked himself to the construction equipment on Tuesday at an Enbridge worksite near Cloquet, Minnesota.
Two protestors were arrested Monday for blocking the entrance to a construction site while Jeff Nichols “climbed onto a section of the pipeline dangling over a trench,” said the collective. “Jeff sat on the pipe for nearly five hours, preventing workers from putting the pipe onto frozen sand bags which would have damaged the structural integrity of the pipeline.”
In a Facebook livestream from Camp Migizi, Jeff said: “It’s not even a question. This one will leak. The sandbags are frozen. You guys have already received violations for that.”
Line three is stalled for another day as a water protector is being extracted after holding it down atop a suspended pipe. The workers have been rejecting OSHA mandates, using unsafe frozen sandbags in their reckless sprint to complete water crossings. #StopLine3 #tarsands pic.twitter.com/OC8QWvvZZC
— Resist Line 3 (@ResistLine3) February 2, 2021
The Canadian company’s efforts to replace an old oil pipeline with a larger one running from Alberta, through North Dakota and Minnesota, to Wisconsin have been met with fierce opposition from Indigenous and climate activists. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, has been criticized for allowing the project to continue, especially after saying publicly in February of 2019 that projects like this one “don’t just need a building permit to go forward, they also need a social permit.”
The actions this week followed an open letter to Walz signed by over 250 opponents of the fossil fuel project. The letter ran on a full page of the Star Tribune and was backed by dozens of lawmakers as well as recording artists such as Bon Iver, Bonnie Raitt, and Pearl Jam; authors; faith leaders; and other community organizers pushing state officials “to stand firm against the Line 3 pipeline.”
“Since 2014, thousands of Minnesotans have shown up at hearings, talked to neighbors, written letters, and organized in their communities to oppose Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline,” the letter notes.
A statement about the letter from Stop Line 3 warns that “the new 337-mile pipeline will exacerbate the climate crisis, threaten drinking water for millions, and disrupt the rights and communities of the Indigenous tribes in some of the state’s most pristine and ecologically sensitive watersheds and landscapes in northern Minnesota.”
Line 3 “violates the treaty rights of Anishinaabe peoples by endangering critical natural resources in the 1854, 1855, and 1867 treaty areas,” Line 3 Media Collective explained Tuesday, adding that Indigenous communities have decried such projects not only for the impacts on their health and lands but also because of the well-established connection between the so-called “man camps” of pipeline workers and the ongoing epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives.
As Common Dreams previously reported, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Saturday met with Indigenous leaders and environmental justice advocates who are organizing opposition to Line 3. The congresswoman said that “we owe it to future generations, to the Indigenous communities we’ve signed treaties with, and to every living being on this planet to stop building fossil fuel infrastructure.”
Omar’s visit came amid a flurry of direct actions targeting the project. “On Friday, water defenders climbed into the pipeline’s trenches before they were arrested, while two others locked themselves to barrels of concrete,” according to Democracy Now!, which shared a comment from Indigenous activist and lawyer Tara Houska at the protest site.
“We actually have a choice, and we’re choosing the wrong path,” said Houska. “Anishinaabe people talked about this time that we would be in, where we’d have to choose: the path of greed and destruction or the path of brother and sisterhood and human life?”