The first person arrested during this summer’s Treaty People Gathering to take her case to trial was acquitted Wednesday on one gross misdemeanor charge in Hubbard County District Court, marking the first ruling in dozens of cases to be brought from the occupation of the Two Inlets pump station.
Anna Humphreys was one among hundreds of water protectors to arrive at the Enbridge-owned Two Inlets pump station in Anishinaabe territory, northern Minnesota on June 7, 2021.
Acting in solidarity with Indigenous communities resisting the Line 3 replacement project, water protectors occupied the facility for close to 36 hours. Throughout the event, people locked down to equipment and held space to disrupt construction and demand that both Enbridge and Minnesota honor the treaty rights guaranteed by federal law.
While protesting, Humphreys was arrested and charged with a gross misdemeanor for trespass on critical public service property—a charge that carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison, a $3,000 fine, or both.
Despite the charge, Humphreys maintained that she did nothing wrong and acted out of necessity. Considering the rapid rate of climate change and the dangers Line 3 poses to Indigenous communities and the water, taking action that day didn’t feel like a choice, but a requirement, she said.
She planned to argue as much in court. In the weeks before her trial, Humphreys and her lawyer worked to present a necessity defense—a legal argument that says any criminal behavior undertaken by a defendant was done to prevent a greater harm.
But on August 13, Judge Kurt Marben blocked the effort on the grounds that Humphreys didn’t present enough evidence that climate change is an imminent threat that demands direct action. He went on to say that she didn’t exhaust all other legal means to stop the pipeline and that any state-sanctioned activity is protected from interference and excluded from a necessity defense.
Undeterred by Marben’s rejection, Humphreys took her case to trial, and on Wednesday morning, she thanked supporters who gathered to attend the trial and entered the courtroom.
The state argued its case, asserting that Humphreys trespassed inside the Two Inlets pump station. But despite introducing law enforcement and witness testimony, photographs, and video footage, prosecuting attorney Anna Emmerling failed to provide any compelling evidence to support the charge.
Testimony from Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Chad Olson confirmed that protesters were arrested both inside and outside of the pump station property throughout the event, but he couldn’t testify that he knew where Humphreys was apprehended.
Similarly, Investigator William “Bill” Schlag with the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office testified that while he had given a dispersal order from a helicopter at the site and taken aerial photographs before booking water protectors on the ground, he had no personal knowledge about where Humphreys was arrested.
Employees from the Becker County Jail, where Humphreys was held, and a private security employee at the scene also testified, but none of them could confirm that Humphreys was within the Two Inlets pump station. The arresting officer did not testify.
As arguments progressed, Humphreys’ lawyer asserted that the property wasn’t operating as a critical public service at the time of her arrest – a point supported by Olson’s testimony, during which he admitted to seeing unassembled lengths of pipe on the property, suggesting the pipeline wasn’t operable.
After just over two hours of argument, Marben’s judgment came down in Humphreys’ favor Wednesday morning when he acquitted her on the charge.
The lack of a chain of custody coupled with no testimony from anyone who could place Humphreys inside the property led him to the decision, Marben said in his ruling.
While he agreed that there wasn’t enough evidence to show Humphreys trespassed inside the Two Inlets pump station, he didn’t make a ruling about if the property constituted a critical public service.
After an audible sigh of relief and a long hug shared with her husband, Humphreys and her supporters walked out of the courtroom.
Though grateful, Humphreys knows her case was only the beginning of what’s likely to be a long process as Hubbard County seeks to prosecute other water protectors arrested at the Two Inlets pump station this summer.
Humphreys was one of 179 June 7 arrestees whose cases are set to unfold in Hubbard County in the coming months. While she was the first to stand trial on a charge from that day, she likely won’t be the last.
On the courthouse steps after her acquittal, Humphreys emphasized how important it is that people continue to show up in solidarity with Indigenous people fighting this and other extractive projects. If people don’t act now, there may not be another chance, she said.
“We’re the final defense,” Humphreys told Unicorn Riot.
Unicorn Riot’s Line 3 Oil Pipeline Coverage:
- Landing Page for all Unicorn Riot Line 3 Resistance Coverage
- Line 3 Opponent Sentenced to Thirty Days in Jail – August 19, 2021
- Enbridge Spills 10,000 Gallons of Line 3 Drilling Fluid – August 16, 2021
- Line 3 Fusion Center Data Declared Secret – August 4, 2021
- Judge Orders Sheriff to Halt Harassment of Line 3 Resistance Camp – July 24, 2021
- Water Protectors Occupy Work Sites and Lock Down to Line 3 Pipeline Construction – July 1, 2021
- Hubbard County Barricades Private Property, Imprisons Water Protectors – June 28, 2021
- Indigenous-Led Blockades Occupy Line 3 Pipeline Sites – June 10, 2021
- Rising Up to the Heat: ‘Treaty People Gathering’ Resists Line 3 Pipeline – June 7, 2021
- Activists Serve Denver Wells Fargo Eviction Notice – May 3, 2021
- Appealing Line 3 Pipeline: Supply and Demand at Root of Hearing – March 23, 2021
- Caravan Disrupts Line 3 Construction Routes, Carlton County Triggers Backlash – March 13, 2021
- Treaty Rights Asserted During Creation of White Earth Camp – March 13, 2021
- 70 Water Protectors Cited, 1 Arrested During Line 3 Commemorative Rally – March 4, 2021
- Bipod and Car Blockade Jam Up Line 3 Construction – March 2, 2021
- Lockdown to Keep it in the Ground: Line 3 Resistance – Feb. 15, 2021
- Court of Appeals Denies Motion to Stop Line 3 – Feb. 3, 2021
- Opposition to Line 3 Mounts – Jan. 29, 2021
- Resistance to Line 3: Direct Actions Aim to Stop Construction – Jan. 11, 2021
- Enbridge Line 3 Construction Blocked by Activists in Northern Minnesota – Nov. 18, 2020
- Protests After Permits for Line 3 Oil Pipeline Approved – Nov. 17, 2020
- ‘No KKKops, No Pipelines’ Banner Dropped in Minneapolis – Oct. 6, 2020
- “Divest from Climate Change!” Chase Bank Branch Protested on Opening Day – Nov. 7, 2019
- March to Protect The Sacred on Indigenous People’s Day 2019 – Oct. 14, 2019
- Hundreds Rally in Opposition to Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline in Minnesota – Sept. 28, 2019
- Direct Action in Minnesota as Line 3 Pipeline Approval Reversed – June 3, 2019
- Multi-Agency Task Force Prepares “Rules of Engagement” For Line 3 Protests – Feb. 11, 2019
- ‘Valve Turners’ Shut Down Enbridge Oil Pipelines in Minnesota – Feb. 4, 2019
- Arts, Culture, and Hip Hop Resist Line 3 as Lawsuits Against Approval Continue – Dec. 29, 2018
- Minnesota Police Train at Military Base as Line 3 Pipeline Protests Escalate – Oct. 25, 2018
- Judge Accepts Water Protectors’ Climate Change Necessity Defense – July 18, 2018
- Line 3 Oil Pipeline Approved By Minnesota Regulators – June 28, 2018
- As Line 3 Oil Pipeline Decision Looms, Indigenous Resistance Increases – June 26, 2018
- Interfaith Community Delivers Letter of Line 3 Opposition to Minnesota Government Offices – June 4, 2018
- Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Requests Line 3 Schedule Change – Jan. 10, 2018
- Rally Against Line 3 Minnesota Pipe Yards – Dec. 11, 2017
- Resistance to Line 3 Pipeline Seeks to Save Sacred Manoomin – Oct. 9, 2017
- Direct Action Ramps Up Resistance to Line 3 – Sept. 18, 2017
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