PARK RAPIDS, Minn. — A total of 179 people were arrested Monday, June 7, at a large-scale protest against Enbridge's Line 3 replacement project, according to a release from the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office.
According to the release, at 7:38 a.m. Monday, the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office received a report of approximately 20 pipeline demonstrators on foot approaching an Enbridge pipeline pumping station on 300th Street, just north of Park Rapids, later confirmed to be the Two Inlet Pump Station.
More calls were made to the sheriff's office reporting additional demonstrators on site attempting to scale the fence with ladders. As Hubbard County Deputies responded, further reports came in including demonstrator numbers growing to 300 individuals at the Enbridge property. There were 43 Enbridge employees unable to exit the property due to the demonstrators locking them in behind the front gate, the release said.
Not long after deputies arrived on the scene, numerous vehicles were parked along U.S. Highway 71 along with a large number of demonstrators walking on the roadway creating what the release called a traffic hazard.
"Enbridge employees were eventually able to exit the premises, it was learned that demonstrators had caused a large amount of damage to Enbridge equipment and other assets," the release said. "Demonstrators assembled barricades inside of the fenced area of the pumping station. Additionally, they put up barricades across the roadways and dug trenches across the township roads presumably in preparation for a standoff with law enforcement."
The release continued, saying that demonstrators hauled in a large boat where approximately 20 demonstrators then chained or attached themselves to it.
"As the number of demonstrators grew to an estimated 500, additional law enforcement personnel were called in to assist with the growing crowd of trespassers and those committing acts of criminal damage to property," the release said.
Officers from 31 different law enforcement agencies assisted in the removal of the demonstrators from private property. A total of 179 demonstrators were arrested and charged with gross misdemeanor trespassing with an additional 68 individuals cited with public nuisance and unlawful assembly.
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According to Enbridge Communications Specialist Juli Kellner, damage to the Two Inlet Pump Station included extensive vandalism of contractor equipment, multiple construction trailers were broken into and the destruction of environmental safeguards intended to control erosion and protect water quality. The damage included slashed tires, cut hoses, rocks and dirt in machine engines, forced entry into offices and destroyed electrical wiring in equipment.
"While we respect everyone’s right to peacefully and lawfully protest, that is not what happened on Monday at the Two Inlets Pump Station," Kellner said. "Protesters attempted to trap workers while forcefully entering and then occupying the site, trespassing and criminally damaging property."
The workers were evacuated from the site for their safety, Kellner explained, including employees of Native-owned contractor Gordon Construction from the White Earth Nation.
"This project is about safety and we remain fully committed to its timely completion," Kellner said. "The protest affected work at just this site and construction continued yesterday and today across dozens of worksites in the five construction zones that stretch across northern Minnesota."
According to Kellner, so far the protests have had little effect on the project’s construction schedule, which is on track to be completed and in service in the fourth quarter of this year.