Roughly 2,000 people rallied at the state Capitol Aug. 25, 2021 to protest Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline. Photo by Rilyn Eischens/Minnesota Reformer
About 2,000 people gathered outside the state Capitol Wednesday afternoon to protest Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline, calling on Gov. Tim Walz and President Joe Biden to block the nearly completed project.
Led by Indigenous people and environmental advocates — many of whom have been fighting the project since Enbridge submitted its first permit applications in 2015 — the “Treaties Not Tar Sands” event was a last-gasp effort to halt construction before the final pieces of pipe are buried.
Enbridge says the project is more than 90% complete and scheduled to carry oil by the end of the year.
“Our people have been here for thousands of years, and we didn’t mess anything up. You might want to take some notes,” said Winona LaDuke, director of the Indigenous environmental nonprofit Honor the Earth. “We’ve got to stop this line before they get to oil.”
Participants gathered on the Capitol lawn, blocked from the building itself by a security fence. State officials said the fence — similar to the one that was in place for a year following civil unrest in spring 2020 — was put up last weekend in anticipation of several upcoming events at the Capitol. State troopers lined the perimeter and steps of the building as participants opened the event with song, drumming and dancing.
— Rilyn Eischens (@rilyneischens) August 25, 2021
Biden and Walz have faced mounting pressure from Indigenous people, environmental activists and some Democratic lawmakers to revoke key permits for the project in recent weeks. Speakers pleaded with them to take action, citing their campaign promises to prioritize tribal relations and the environment.
“How can the president say he is for (progress on) climate change, and allow this expansion to go through?” said Sam Strong, secretary of the Red Lake Nation. “How can our state say they are for our climate, and allow this atrocity to not only happen, but to dishonor the treaties that created this very same Capitol — that created all of Minnesota?”
Eleven Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers addressed the crowd to share their support for the anti-Line 3 movement. Sen. Mary Kunesh, who is of Standing Rock Lakota descent, said she’s concerned about reports of increased violence toward Indigenous women during construction.
“We have created a permanent (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives office), but it is not enough,” said Kunesh, who authored a bill to create the office. “As long as Enbridge has these pipelines running through the veins of Mother Earth, this will happen again and again.”
The week has been a busy one for the anti-Line 3 movement, including a concert in Duluth headlined by Bon Iver; a protest at a pump station outside Cloquet that resulted in more than 30 arrests; and, a blockade of a camp housing Line 3 workers in Backus. In Washington D.C., more than 20 Line 3 protesters were arrested Tuesday.
In another blow to Line 3 opponents, the Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up appeals court decision upholding key project permits. Several legal challenges are still ongoing, but it’s unlikely decisions will be published before the project is completed.
Despite the impending end of construction and silence from state and federal leaders, attendees Wednesday were optimistic that the fight is not over.
“There has already been much suffering, and it’s only going to get worse. But we do have an opportunity to make a difference. We do have an opportunity to show the world a better way to live, to live in a way that will allow our children to live a good life,” Strong said. “These are the important things. This is the message that we must carry.”
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