Hundreds of activists, allies protest Enbridge Line 3 pipeline at Mississippi River headwaters
Hundreds of water protectors, Indigenous leaders and activists gathered on County Road 9 in Clearwater County, about 20 miles southwest of Bemidji, to protest construction of the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline on June 7, 2021. After marching for nearly 2 miles from their staging area to the Mississippi River, indigenous leaders spoke to the crowd and demanded political leaders hear their voices over environmental, and other, concerns about continued construction of Enbridge's pipeline.
CLEARWATER COUNTY, Minn. — Water protectors, indigenous leaders and activists showed up by the thousands in Clearwater County Monday, June 7, to protest continued construction of the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline through northern Minnesota.
After marching for nearly 2 miles to the Mississippi River, 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 protestors 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 RISE (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 the group organizers.
Clearwater County Sheriff Darin Halverson said he, and his deputies, knew the group was only trying to demonstrate their first amendment rights and wanted to allow them the space to do that.
"We've been working with the local leaders throughout this whole project and we've let them, not to this scale, but we've let them come down and demonstrate in the past, and they've been very respectful, and that's what I'm expecting today," said Halverson. "It's a large turnout."
Celebrity allies of the movement, Jane Fonda and Rosanna Arquette, were also in attendance and spoke to the protesters 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," Fonda said. "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."
Arrests made at second protest site
The other site of protest appeared on Highway 71, north of Park Rapids, with protesters blocking an Enbridge pump station, according to an afternoon news release from the organizers. Protesters linked arms and created blockades of debris at the site. The number of arrests at the second site are unknown at this time, though MPR News reported that around two dozen protesters had locked themselves to equipment Monday.
"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."
At one point, a U.S. Border Patrol helicopter flew in very low to try to flush out demonstrators from the site, according to an MPR News report. A loudspeaker broadcast warned people they would be arrested if they didn’t leave the area.
Enbridge released a statement that said the damage done by the protesters 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 in White Earth.
"We hoped all parties would come to accept the outcome of the thorough, science-based review and multiple approvals of the project," the statement continued. "Line 3 has passed every test through six years of regulatory and permitting review ...."