LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Protecting human rights of pipeline protesters
Fulton Gallagher’s recent letter to the editor (Aug. 29), which challenged statements made by one of our colleagues, Rita Chamblin, from Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, warrants a response. The letter writer attacked Mrs. Chamblin’s integrity and the sources of her information, and so we welcome the opportunity to engage and clarify.
Last month, over 400 religious leaders from around Minnesota called on government leaders to end violence by police against Indigenous peoples who oppose the Line 3 pipeline. The evidence cited in the letter is public record. Our goal is to increase transparency around these incidents so we can stop these abuses before they happen.
First, we know that a coalition of Minnesota law enforcement called the Northern Lights Task Force have been preparing for Line 3 protests with training in tactics including use of chemical deterrents, making indiscriminate mass arrests, targeting journalists, and the aggressive use of “less lethal” munitions known to cause serious injury.
Secondly, we know that Enbridge is footing the bill for law enforcement expenses related to the pipeline. A “Public Safety Escrow Trust” was established earlier this year in order for the pipeline company to (without limit or specific criteria) reimburse law enforcement agencies for costs associated with pipeline protests. In effect, Minnesota law enforcement will have a bottomless tab open with a Canadian multinational corporation to pay for the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons against Minnesotans.
We are calling law enforcement to be transparent and accountable, and we are calling citizens to recognize the human rights abuses implicit in the pipeline project itself. Multiple tribes have demonstrated in court that Line 3 violates their treaty rights, and yet these rights have been trampled and ignored as the project was approved.
By sidestepping these critical treaty rights issues, the state has continued a long tradition of marginalizing Indigenous communities and putting the burden on them to fight for their rights in court. It is unconscionable that Indigenous people who decide that protest is the only way to protect their land and water can expect to be met with military-style law enforcement funded by the pipeline company itself.
We urge any readers of this piece -- including, hopefully, Mr. Gallagher -- to join us in calling for human rights protections for pipeline protesters, and for the protection of Native sovereignty enshrined in our treaties.
Joe Meinholz is the outreach coordinator at Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light in Minneapolis.