More than 50 protesters, six of whom chained themselves to a pair of gates, blockaded the entrances to an Enbridge office in Bemidji Monday morning.
The demonstration was organized by the activist group “Stop Line 3” in what was just the latest protest in more than a year of public displays against the project. In February, for instance, four protesters were arrested after they disabled an Enbridge pipeline in northern Minnesota, as The Minnesota Sun reported.
Enbridge received unanimous approval from the state’s Public Utilities Commission in March 2018 to begin reconstruction of Line 3, but the company has faced a number of setbacks ever since. Most recently, the Minnesota Court of Appeals took issue with the adequacy of Enbridge’s environmental impact statement in an early June ruling.
Enbridge maintains that Line 3, which stretches across northern Minnesota, is in a constant state of disrepair and needs to be replaced. The company argues that the replacement project has undergone “the most extensive environmental study of a pipeline project in state history.”
Protesters, on the other hand, claim that the replacement project will contribute to global warming and expose more lakes and rivers to possible oil spills.
Video of Monday’s incident shows more than 50 so-called “water protectors” protesting outside of Enbridge’s Bemidji office while several demonstrators chained themselves to the front gates.
“Here we have three water protectors who have locked themselves to the gate to ensure that Enbridge is not able to build the Line 3 tar sands pipeline. We’re here to protect the water, to respect Native treaty rights, and to preserve a livable climate for all of us,” a spokesperson says in a video of the demonstration.
He goes on to say that the pipeline will cut “through sacred wild rice lakes” and threaten “the climate of the entire planet.”
Police were on the scene and told protesters that they could continue their demonstration throughout the day so long as they allowed employees to exit the premises. Enbridge reportedly closed its office for the day in response to the protest.
“We’re getting a report from our police liaison that Enbridge has confirmed we have shut their offices down with our blockade,” the spokesperson said.
One protester said he felt it was “his duty to put [his] body on the line to stand in solidarity with indigenous water protectors.” He was chained to the entrance gate directly below a no trespassing sign.
The demonstration lasted for nearly three hour hours, according to video of the event.
Enbridge released a statement to the media early Monday in response to the protest.
“While Enbridge respects the rights of others to express their views on the energy we all use, criminal acts of unlawful protest like sabotage, vandalism, trespassing and occupation of pipeline facilities have the potential to cause serious harm—not only to the perpetrators, but also to nearby communities, the environment, local landowners and the employees who maintain these facilities,” a statement provided to KSTP said. “These acts also divert the attention of regional law enforcement from others who need their help and attention.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Images “Enbridge Protest” by Stop Line 3.