June 10, 2021
From Unicorn Riot

Hubbard and Clearwater Counties, MN – On Monday, June 7, two different direct actions by Indigenous people and climate advocates took over two different work sites in traditional Anishinaabe territory for the Line 3 tar sands pipeline being built by Enbridge, a Canadian multi-national oil company with a history of major oil spills.

Opponents of Line 3 seek to stop the pipeline due to tar sands oil (one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fossil fuels), worsening climate change, the sex trafficking and assaults on Native women and girls associated with an influx of pipeline workers in ‘man camps’, and the threat of an oil spill to sensitive watersheds and traditional wild rice habitat in the region.

Lawsuits at both the state and federal level have challenged the approval process for the pipeline, which lacks a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Minnesota Court of Appeals is due to rule on a challenge to the pipeline’s state-level permits by June 21. This project is aimed at replacing an existing Line 3 route that entered operation in 1968, partly along a different route than before.

Thousands heeded the call-out for water protectors to gather in northern Minnesota for the Treaty People Gathering to escalate protests against the pipeline project. On Monday morning, a large crowd marched to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, where they set up the ‘Fire Light Camp’ nearby the path of one the pipeline’s planned river crossings.

The pipeline’s route traverses territories designated in treaties signed during the 1800s that still protect tribal rights to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice. Pipeline opponents argue Line 3 undermines these legally sanctioned rights, by raising the risk of a genocidal catastrophe, particularly if another massive leak occurs like the March 1991 leak of the original Line 3, the largest inland leak in U.S. history, spilling 1.3 million gallons of oil near Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

Further south along the pipeline route, another direct action was also beginning early Monday morning. Around the start of the workday, water protectors flowed onto the Line 3 Two Inlets pump station in Hubbard County. At first, a few dozen people blocked the access road off of US-71 as more vehicles began to stream in and drop more people off. Soon several hundred people were on site with lines of pipeline resisters locking arms to prevent sheriff’s vehicles and Enbridge contractors from driving onto the site.

Water protectors block Hubbard County Sheriff vehicles that tried to push through the crowd on the Line 3 pump station access road on Monday morning.

A boat named Good Trouble (reminiscent of the “good trouble, necessary trouble” John Lewis and fellow civil rights activists got into) was dropped off and parked sideways, further blocking the access road to the Enbridge pump station. Around a dozen protesters then locked themselves into various lockboxes attached to the boat.

Anti-pipeline banners wave in the wind as water protectors chant in front of the boat blockade on the access road to the Line 3 Two Inlets pump station, which is still under construction in Hubbard County.

Behind the boat, a complex blockade device involving bamboo and a maze of interwoven cables was also set up with several lockboxes further obstructing access to the Line 3 work site.

As the layered of blockades went up on the access road, more protesters continued to arrive in the area. As it became clear pipeline security and law enforcement were not prepared to immediately stop the crowd, people began to enter the fenced-off pump station at the end of the dusty dirt path.

A banner reading ‘Life Over Oil’ was hung off the railing of a structure inside the Line 3 Two Inlets pumping station work compound.

Several water protectors locked themselves to various pieces of equipment inside the pump station yard, which is still under construction. During this time some machinery was damaged and anti-pipeline messages in spray paint appeared at several points inside the facility.

Anti-pipeline graffiti left on electrical equipment at the Two Inlets Pump Station.

Many construction materials found in and around the pump station were repurposed to create improvised barricades.

More of the crowd on the access road by the highway began to join those inside the pump station work yard. Soon, hundreds of people were inside the facility chanting against the pipeline. The moment quickly turned into a rally with speakers including Indigenous activists Winona LaDuke and Tara Houska, as well as actors Jane Fonda and Taylor Schilling, star of Orange is the New Black.

Into the early afternoon the law enforcement response was still fairly limited, with police and sheriff’s vehicles parked on the road with officers directing traffic. Two Enbridge private security contractors from Securitas watched from by their truck by the pump station without interacting with the crowd.

Enbridge contractors from the private security firm Securitas watch water protectors from behind a slash pile of dead trees.

Around noon, a helicopter from the Department of Homeland Security flew dangerously low over the crowd, sometimes just 20 feet above the ground, kicking up dust and debris.

Northern Lights Task Force press representative John Elder claimed that “the helicopter was brought in…to issue a dispersal order” and that the helicopter kicking up giant clouds of dust and debris while only 20 feet above the ground was accidental and unintentional. People present on the ground disagreed, observing that the repeated maneuvers seemed to be an intentional act of ‘buzzing’ people to try to scare them into leaving.

(In a bizarre twist on Tuesday, Elder tweeted from the Minneapolis Police Twitter account in an apparently personal capacity to claim that he was “not the spokesperson. I am consulting law enforcement.” John Elder primarily works as Public Information Officer for the Minneapolis Police Department. Elder previously authored the Minneapolis Police press release which described the police murder of George Floyd as a “medical incident.”)

As the afternoon wore on, the crowd inside the pump station compound thinned out, with many people seeking shade on the adjoining property to escape the brutal sun (Minnesota is currently facing record-breaking heat waves and drought).

Supplies such as water started running thin amongst the crowd, and State Patrol and sheriffs on US-71 threatened to arrest drivers of vehicles attempting to deliver supplies. Eventually, water protectors arrived on ATVs bearing supplies, allowing the crowd to stay without further dehydration. More vehicles also continued to arrive on the road, apparently overwhelming police attempts to refuse use of the public road to provide supplies and support. During this time, several tents and shade structures were set up inside the pump station site, with many saying they would stay to shut down the Line 3 work site as long as they could.

Around 4:20 p.m. the first wave of riot police arrived, made up mostly of Beltrami County Sheriff’s deputies and Moorhead Police. The ‘mobile field force‘ teams deployed quickly via school buses provided by Park Rapids Area Schools. Law enforcement moved in from the back entrance to the pump station work yard, forming a perimeter and using the pump station fence to encircle, trap and arrest those who were still inside. Those not locked down to equipment inside the work yard were soon arrested as a larger crowd of water protectors and climate protesters chanted and faced off with police outside the pump station gate on the access road.

Officers then closed the metal front gate to the pump station work site, completing their takeover of the occupied pump station.

A water protector stands with her hands on her hips in front of Moorhead Police officers in riot gear in front of the pumping station gate.

More police reinforcements arrived throughout the evening as pipeline defense operations by the Northern Lights Task Force intensified in response to water protectors taking action that morning.

Bemidji Police officers in riot gear stand in formation in front of barricades erected on the access road to the Line 3 pumping station.

Over the next several hours, ‘cut teams’ (aka “extrication teams”), trained as part of the Northern Lights Task Force, worked methodically to remove the dozens of water protectors locked to the majority of the machinery inside the work yard. Most of the deputies and officers present did not have names or badge numbers displayed on their uniforms. Most of those cutting water protectors out of ‘lockbox’ devices wore black uniforms with red hard hat helmets with over-ear hearing protection attached. Their uniforms did not make it clear which department the ‘cut team’ officers were from.

Several officers had ‘less lethal’ munitions in shotguns and rifles ready to use as they watched over protesters being arrested and removed from Enbridge equipment. Several other deputies also carried assault rifles with live ammunition. 

As the final water protectors were extracted from being locked to or inside construction equipment inside the work yard, the law enforcement coalition retaking the pipeline site concentrated their forces on the access road leading to the pump station.

Several more water protectors had locked themselves to a barricade blocking the dirt road, further delaying police operations to clear the area. Dozens of the remaining protesters formed a protective circle around their comrades who recently locked down.

Water protectors blockade the access road to the Line 3 work site by US-71 as the sun sets on Monday evening.

The Hubbard County Sheriff declared an unlawful assembly via a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) and large amounts of deputies in riot gear quickly arrested about 30 more water protectors blocking the road. Cut teams then moved in to carry out their trained procedures for cutting protesters out of the lockbox devices.

Those mass arrested on the access road in the evening were detained temporarily and released on site after being given a summons to appear in court. This decision might be due to the fact that local county jails were already overwhelmed by the sheer volume of arrests.

As deputies and officers led away individual detainees to release them back on the edge of US-71 off of the Enbridge work road, several other ‘cut teams’ continued to work with power tools on extracting the protesters still locked into the boat (named ‘Good Trouble’) that was still successfully blocking the access road to the pump station. At least a dozen water protectors still appeared to be locked onto or into the boat as of late Monday night. Four of them stayed attached into Tuesday, with law enforcement ‘cut teams’ ceasing attempts to remove them when a powerful thunderstorm rolled into the area around 1 a.m.

Sparks fly as law enforcement attempts to cut through lockboxes on #Line3 access road boat blockade

The four individuals still locked into the ‘Good Trouble’ boat continued to shut down access to the Line 3 pumping station well into Tuesday afternoon, with sheriff’s deputies finally succeeding in cutting them out of the lockboxes by around 4 p.m. This brought the total shutdown of the pump station work site to approximately two full work days. After the arrestees were extracted from the boat, handcuffed and taken away, a tow truck was brought in that finally removed the boat, reopening the access road to the Line 3 pump station.

During Tuesday morning and afternoon, a crowd of a few dozen water protectors was cheering and showing support to people still locked onto the boat. However, law enforcement was much more aggressive with the smaller crowd on Tuesday than they were with the larger crowd on Monday. State troopers and Hubbard County Sheriff’s repeatedly harassed both protesters and media, threatening them with arrest for parking on the public road with a line of sight to the blockaded access road.

An unlawful assembly was declared by the Hubbard County Sheriff early Tuesday afternoon, coercing most protesters into leaving under threat of arrest. Only a handful of independent journalists and National Lawyers Guild legal observers remained to witness and report on the police operation to extract the remaining four people locked to the boat blockade.

Several journalists, including one Unicorn Riot reporter, were prevented from viewing the access road blockade by Hubbard County Sheriff’s deputies and Bemidji Police officers who told them no more media would be allowed to observe from the public road because “plenty” were already present (three people with cameras were present at this time). At least two people observing police operations were arrested by state patrol and sheriffs while viewing the lockdown extraction from the side of the public highway US-71.

The Northern Lights Task Forcethe coalition of county and state law enforcement working to protect the Enbridge corporationis made up of 16 counties on or near the pipeline route. Some counties and cities not on the Line 3 route were also present at the Two Inlets Pump Station on Monday and Tuesday. Agencies observed by Unicorn Riot at the scene included the Hubbard County Sheriff, Beltrami County Sheriff, Beltrami Fire Department, Mower County Sheriff, Cass County Sheriff, Polk County Sheriff, Becker County Sheriff, Rice County Sheriff, Anoka County Sheriff, Moorhead Police, Bemidji Police, and Minnesota State Troopers, Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers, as well as staff from the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).

Most law enforcement costs associated with protecting Line 3 are being paid by the Enbridge corporation via funds the Canadian oil giant deposits into an escrow account managed by state officials. According to documents obtained by The Intercept, “Enbridge reimbursed $1,086,361” to local sheriffs, police and other agencies as of the end May 2021.

“179 people were booked into area detention centers and 68 people were issued citations in lieu of arrest and released” on Monday, June 7, according to a Facebook post by the Northern Lights Task Force. The task force statement described the event as “civil unrest” and noted that most of those arrested and/or cited were “charged with gross misdemeanor trespass on critical infrastructure or public nuisance and unlawful assembly.”

According to National Lawyers Guild attorneys representing water protectors, “about 200” were arrested. Arrestees were reportedly transported to at least 6 different county jails, highlighting the multi-jurisdictional nature of police operations against pipeline opponents. (The Northern Lights Task Force statement noted ”[because] most departments in this area are small, they have banded together to be able to provide mutual aid seamlessly and proactively for both planned and spontaneous events.“)

Most of those arrested were not held in Hubbard County where arrests took place, but were transferred further away to jails in Aitkin County, Kandiyohi County, Douglas County, Pine County, Todd County and Becker County. Some water protectors held in northern Minnesota county jails were denied medical care, access to prescription medication, and not permitted to contact an attorney, according to the Indigenous Environmental Network. As of Thursday afternoon, two water protectors were still in jail.

Fire Light Camp setting up tents along the lumber matting placed by Enbridge over the Mississippi Headwaters.

Fire Light Camp, the occupation set up where Line 3 would cross the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Clearwater County, is still in place with several dozen people camped out in tents on the lumber matting placed by Enbridge. Law enforcement has so far refrained from evicting the encampment, possibly because Enbridge isn’t immediately seeking to do any major work on the site just yet.

Enbridge spokesperson Michael Barnes attempted to garner sympathy for the multinational oil corporation by comparing the blockade of the pipeline site to the January 6 coup attempt at the US Capitol by supporters of former President Trump (who approved federal permits for Line 3.) “How is that any different than what took place at our nation’s capital?” Barnes remarked to The Intercept.

Taysha Martineau, founder of Camp Migizi, one of the ongoing bases for pipeline resisters, responded: “the difference between us and the right-wingers is we’re not upset about an election, we’re upset about the fact that we can’t even survive.”

“That’s all we’ve been doing for 500+ years is survive, survive, survive by any means necessary. And as Indigenous people who’s roots our to this land, we were meant to stand here together and thrive. You know, as Indigenous people, we know the way, we know how to live a good life, and it’s time for those who aren’t from here, you know, who came here, whether it was fleeing the persecution of a church, whether it was brought here from forms of genocide and slavery, whether they came here willingly to start their new life and search for the American dream,or whether it was our Indigenous relatives traveling to safety because of the United States’ occupation, we all need to learn how to live here together in a good way and we know that way, so it’s time people start listening to that.”

-Taysha Martineau

Martineau also called for more people to come and join the ongoing resistance to Line 3 in northern Minnesota.

“If you weren’t at Standing Rock, and that’s a regret in your heart, you should get here. Know, you as an individual, are everything good that your ancestors brought to this place, and we need you here on the frontlines to stand with us today for a future for your grandchildren, too.”

View Unicorn Riot’s live coverage of the blockade at the Line 3 Two Inlets pump station:

Monday, June 7, part 1:

Monday, June 7, part 2:

Monday, June 7, part 3:

Monday, June 7, part 4:

Monday, June 7, part 5:

Tuesday June 8, part 1:

Tuesday June 8, part 2:

Unicorn Riot’s Line 3 Oil Pipeline Coverage:

Source: Unicornriot.ninja