Law enforcement agencies in the state have been preparing for some time now to forcefully quell Line 3 protests. This hits home since the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Department is an active and leading member of the Northern Lights Task Force. The task force members have been training, stockpiling gear, and gathering information with the expectation of reimbursement of these expenses by the Canadian pipeline corporation, Enbridge.
Recently, leaders from many spiritual and religious traditions signed and delivered a letter to state officials expressing deep concern about the deployment of law enforcement to respond to peaceful protests in support of the environment and Indigenous rights. When our law enforcement agencies strategize behind closed doors it implies an escalation of police tactics that will violate international human rights standards. The militarized violence against Black communities, Indigenous communities, and communities of color must be interrupted. Consequently, we have invited the state to join us in protecting the people and tribes of Minnesota against human rights abuses by Minnesota law enforcement. We ask that:
Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan ensure that all state responses adhere to the executive order, which mandates a process of tribal consultation for each of the state agencies whose work intersects with sovereign tribal nations.
Commissioner Harrington and the Department of Public Safety ensure that Enbridge cannot influence state public safety decisions. And, that the decision making process for police protocol for use of force is transparent to the public.
Commissioner Lucero prepares on-the-ground human rights observers as actively as Enbridge and the state and local law enforcement agencies seem to be preparing law enforcement to escalate violence. We need more than a civil rights investigation after the fact; we also need proactive protection of human rights.
Commissioner Sieben transparently defines the criteria for -- and limits on -- funding for law enforcement via the Public Safety Escrow Trust in the route permit for Line 3, to be in explicit accordance with international human rights standards regarding use of police force.
We must speak out publicly about police brutality and demand the protection of human rights for Indigenous communities who oppose the pipeline. The entrenched evil of racism in this country is a spiritual crisis that will not be solved overnight. We must call forth the world of justice that our spiritual traditions promise us is possible.
Rita Chamblin is the Bemidji liaison for Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light.