BEMIDJI – An act of civil disobedience over oil pipelines on the Red Lake Indian Reservation ended with a moment of civility Wednesday.
Angie Palacio, after being handcuffed to the front door of Enbridge Energy, 1129 Industrial Drive SE, removed the cuffs just after 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. She then walked, with wrists free, to a waiting Bemidji police car.
“They had a point to make, and they have a right to protest,” said Sgt. Dave Hanson.
Palacio, 35, of Bemidji was one of more than two dozen protestors at Enbridge’s Bemidji facility. At issue are four oil pipelines that run under a few acres of Red Lake land. But the sovereignty of the reservation’s boundaries is just the beginning, according to Marty Cobenais, a Red Lake Nation member.
“There’s a variety of issues here,” Cobenais said.
Among them, climate change – sped up, according to protestors, by the pumping of tar sands from Canada. Cobenais said the group stands in solidarity with those protesting the northern extension of the Keystone XL pipeline.
And the rupture of the ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline near Little Rock, Ark. has only added fuel to the fire. Making the recent oil spill even more fitting for those at Enbridge Wednesday are the ages of the pipelines: Pegasus, at 65-years-old, is one year older than one of the four pipelines in Red Lake.
“They’ve been ignoring the fact that we’ve been occupying their pipeline for well over a month now,” Palacio said of the group’s encampment near a pipeline in Clearwater County.
For Cobenais, Palacio’s attachment, at first to an exterior door, then an interior one, was simple symbolism.
“They’re on our land, now she’s on their land,” he said.
Becky Haase, a spokeswoman for Enbridge, said the protests “aren’t helpful” in negotiations with the Red Lake Tribal Council. The council has previously stated they have no affiliation with the protests.
“We respect the rights of these folks to express their views and discuss their opinions about our business,” she said. “Enbridge remains committed to resolving the property ownership issue that’s ongoing with the Red Lake Band.”
In the lobby of the building, books – one titled “Mileposts The Story of the World’s Longest Petroleum Pipeline – sat on a coffee table. On the wall was a mirror with the outline of a man’s head. Below it, the words “You are the face of safety at Enbridge.”
Palacio never made it across the threshold that led to the books and mirror. But when the time came to close the building for the night, an employee officially asked the group to leave. Palacio was taken into custody without the slightest of incidents.
No cuffs, no sirens. Just a crowd shuffling with cameras to document the moment. Palacio was booked into and released from the Beltrami County Jail, after being cited for misdemeanor trespassing.
It was a ceremonial arrest.
“I just want to see what they’re going to do,” she said. “Hopefully now they pay attention.”