Indigenous leaders and activists showed up by the thousands to protest continued construction of the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline through northern Minnesota.
Calling it “Minnesota’s largest ever anti-pipeline mobilization,” more than 1,000 people marched with Indigenous leaders to the headwaters of the Mississippi River for a treaty ceremony.
Further south, over 500 Indigenous people and allies shut down an active Line 3 pump station.
These actions were a part of the Treaty People Gathering, a mass mobilization planned by Indigenous-led groups, communities of faith and climate justice organizations.
Protest at headwaters
After marching for nearly 2 miles to the Mississippi River on Monday, June 7, activists were met with no resistance from the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office deputies who were on scene to keep the peace and protect the protesters on County Road 9.
Those gathered remained peaceful throughout the afternoon and loudly voiced their concerns through chants and singing.
“A spill, a rupture will harm the environment in this area,” said Dawn Goodwin, co-founder of Resilient Indigenous Sisters Engaging. “Climate change, that oil is the dirtiest oil and will emit so much CO2 into our environment it would be equal to building 50 new coal plants."
The activists claim the pipeline carrying tar sands oil from Canada will cross more than 200 bodies of water, including dozens of wild rice lakes, and sensitive watershed ecosystems, according to a press release from group organizers.
Participants are calling on President Biden to stop Line 3, which opponents say threatens northern Minnesota’s waters, the global climate and Anishinaabe treaty rights.
“Our ancestors made agreements to take care of this water and land forever together, and now is our time to do that.” said Winona LaDuke of Honor The Earth.
Celebrity allies of the movement, Jane Fonda and Rosanna Arquette, were also in attendance and spoke to the protestors during the program of speakers.
“The Biden administration has the power to stop the advance of Line 3 and reexamine the permit, ask the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to reexamine this because they haven't done an adequate environmental impact assessment, a climate assessment, and a justice assessment," said Fonda. "This is exactly what's needed, I just left the other site where people are chained to the equipment, and that is what changes things … they have so many bodies of water that they are going to try to put pipelines under, and we have to give them heartburn at every single one.”
According to a news release, participants are now holding space on the easement near the Mississippi and “are prepared to stay.
According to a news release, more than 350 faith leaders convened a multifaith prayer circle on Monday, June 7 to resist the Line 3 pipeline through prayer and song.
Religious leaders participating in the prayer circle included Bishop Craig Loya, Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota; Jim Bear Jacobs, Minnesota Council of Churches; Sister Marianne Comfort, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; Tariq Ur Rahman, Islamic Circle of North America; Nikhil Mandalaparthy, Hindus for Human Rights; Rev. Dr. Ambrose Carroll, Green the Church; Vicki Kaplan, Dayenu; Ben Connelly, MInnesota Zen Meditation Center; Aly Tharp, Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth; Rev. Susan Hendershot, Interfaith Power and Light; Rev. Fletcher Harper, GreenFaith and Joshua Basofin, Parliament of the World's Religions.
Two Inlets pump station blocked
Beginning at 8 a.m. another protest appeared on U.S. Hwy. 71, north of Park Rapids, blocking an Enbridge pump station.
Protesters linked arms and created blockades of debris at the site, including parking a boat across the roadway.
The crowd size was estimated to be approaching 1,000 as buses dropped off people at the site.
“The situation is urgent," said Tara Houska, a member of the Giniw Collective, in a released statement. "It requires an urgent response. Find your bravery, find your community, and find your truth.”
Waving various banners, the crowd chanted, “The people, united, we’ll never be defeated.”
According to a June 7 news release, the protesters were occupying the station and pitching tents.
The protest constricted traffic on U.S. Hwy. 71 and brought law enforcement from surrounding counties to assist the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office.
According to Minnesota Public Radio, at one point, a U.S. Border Patrol helicopter flew in very low to try to flush out demonstrators from the site. It hovered about 20 feet off the ground, blowing up sand and dirt aggressively. A loudspeaker broadcast warned people they would be arrested if they didn’t leave the area.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson said, "U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Grand Forks responded to a local law enforcement request for assistance to address a gathering of people who were reported to have trespassed on private property. CBP’s headquarters is investigating the facts to determine precisely what occurred and whether the actions taken were justified. All appropriate actions will be taken based on the facts that are learned, including with respect to the incident itself as well as the agency’s applicable policies and procedures.”
The number of arrests at the second site are unknown at this time.
Enbridge released a statement that said the damage done by the protestors at the pump station was “disheartening” and 44 workers needed to evacuate the job site at the pump station, including 10 employees of a native-owned contractor located in White Earth.
The statement continued, “We hoped all parties would come to accept the outcome of the thorough, science-based review and multiple approvals of the project. Line 3 has passed every test through six years of regulatory and permitting review including 70 public comment meetings, appellant review and reaffirmation of the 13,500-page environmental impact statement, four separate reviews by administrative law judges, 320 route modifications in response to stakeholder input, and reviews and approvals from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (the only tribe with "treatment as a State" water quality authority along the pipeline route).”