A legal group has filed a lawsuit against “eco-terrorists” who caused more than $100,000 in damage to the equipment of a Minnesota-based family logging company.
The Upper Midwest Law Center announced its lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of Scheff Logging and Trucking during a press conference at the Minnesota State Capitol. The complaint names Shawn Ray Etsitty, currently facing criminal charges in St. Louis County, as the defendant, but leaves room for naming additional activists and organizations who may be culpable.
During the February 2019 incident, Etsitty and his co-conspirators mistakenly believed that the Scheff work site in Cloquet was affiliated with Enbridge and its Line 3 restoration project. In fact, a protest group called “Stop Line 3” posted a video of the Scheff logging site on Facebook and accused Enbridge of “illegal logging” and bulldozing “its way through wetlands.”
“They tore out wiring. They stole keys. They cut hydraulic lines, which allowed oil to drain into the ground. They poured sand, glue and water into the equipment in order to disable it. They cut and pulled out wiring, [and] damaged dashboards,” said Douglas Seaton, founder and president of the Upper Midwest Law Center. “And they caused significantly more than $100,000 in damage maliciously and intentionally to the equipment of a small family logging company working under contract for the county.”
Seaton and his firm are labeling the vandals as “eco-terrorists,” since the criminal acts were “committed for apparent ideological reasons by people who oppose all pipelines and energy infrastructure.”
“Their targets include, but are not limited to, the Enbridge pipeline restoration project and apparently any logging operation as well,” said Seaton. “The same gang also vandalized equipment of Casper Construction in Carlton County. They followed the same playbook and left fingerprints in the snow in that case, which allowed the police to follow them and arrest them.”
The lawsuit is addressed to Etsitty but “also those who acted with him and those who knowingly assisted, trained, ratified or funded this activity.”
“Who’s behind this? This is the other thing we need to address in this lawsuit. Right now we know that several organizations have conducted what they call ‘action training camps’ for people like Etsitty,” said Seaton. “These groups fund and conduct these training camps and supposed protests, which provide cover for this criminal activity.”
He said the organizations involved in the training of “eco-terrorists” include Stop Line 3, Guinea, MN 350, the Anti-Colonial Land Defense, and Northfield Against Line 3. These groups apparently receive funding from several more prominent organizations, including the McKnight Foundation.
“If we do find in the discovery in the lawsuit that these organizations have culpability, we’re going to name them as parties to the lawsuit and bring them into the lawsuit as well to stand accountable for what has happened to the Scheffs and others like them,” Seaton explained.
State Sen. Paul Utke (R-Park Rapids) called on the Minnesota Legislature to pass his Worker Safety and Energy Security Act, which would increase penalties for individuals who criminally trespass or damage energy infrastructure.
“Eco-terrorist actions put employees, first responders, our environment, and even the eco-terrorists themselves at risk. This behavior is becoming more common, and clearly oversteps the bounds of safe expression encompassed in our First Amendment rights, while recklessly threatening Minnesota’s public safety,” Utke said in a statement. “The victims are our families, our friends, and our neighbors – these activities are entirely unacceptable.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Lawsuit Press Conference” by the Center of the American Experiment.