Update: 7:40 p.m.
Protesters fighting the Enbridge Energy company’s push to replace an aging oil pipeline across northern Minnesota maintained a blockade at a pump station Tuesday as part of a summer drive to stop the project before it can go into service.
Two protesters spent the night locked down in a boat blocking the entrance to one construction site, while two others locked themselves down underneath, tucked in behind duffel bags, beach chairs, water bottles and clothing.
“We're prepared to stay here indefinitely ... we've got some food, we're ready to fast, we've got plenty of water. Nice sleeping bag,” Austin Cook, one of the two men connected to the bottom of the boat, said earlier in the morning. “We'll be here as long as it takes, basically.”
A Hubbard County sheriff's deputy and a handful of private security guards stood by in the morning, but other law enforcement officers arrived as authorities went to work cutting the protesters free.
“Last night was kind of scary, because it was intense lightning and intense thunder, it was almost like we were at sea,” said a woman named Sophie, who didn’t want to give her last name because she was risking arrest. She spent Monday night locked with another protester inside the boat.
She said she was able to sleep a little, even amid the noise of the weather. “Honestly, I'm shocked that I ended up falling asleep, but I was so tired,” she said Tuesday morning. “I've been mostly in shock, just trying to process everything and maintain my well-being so I can do this for as long as I need to do this.”
Deputies freed the two women in the boat early Tuesday afternoon and led them away. They worked into the afternoon to cut through the device that two men used to make it difficult to extract them from the trailer under the boat, which bore the name “Good Trouble" on its stern, a quote from the late civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who was known for encouraging people to get in “good trouble” in a worthy cause.
The direct action was part of an Indigenous-led multiday event, called the Treaty People Gathering, which began over the weekend and is expected to reach into the week with prayer, marches and more direct action.
Organizers say they hope to draw attention to the fight against the pipeline that they argue will exacerbate climate change and threaten the waters of treaty lands in northern Minnesota.
Their primary goal is to push the Biden administration to stop the Line 3 project, as it did the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Two Inlets pump station, a few miles south of Itasca State Park, was a major focus of protests Monday, with some people chaining themselves to construction equipment before police made arrests. Law enforcement officials had still not released arrest figures by Tuesday evening but one of the lead groups organizing the protests, the Giniw Collective, put the number of arrests at over 150.
Enbridge is replacing its current Line 3 oil pipeline, which is corroding and requires extensive maintenance, with a new pipe along a different route across northern Minnesota that will be able to carry about twice as much oil as the current line.
Line 3 opponents argue that, in addition to exacerbating climate change and putting nearby waters at risk, the project threatens tribal members' rights to hunt, fish and gather wild rice on land outside reservation borders — as outlined in several treaties with the U.S. government.
“I'm 19. I'm going to be 20 this summer, and I sort of realized a few years ago just how bad things were, and how much we've destroyed our planet,” said Sophie, one of the protesters who spent the night in the boat.
Enbridge says the original pipeline — built in the 1960s — is deteriorating and can run at only about half its original capacity. It says the new line, made from stronger steel, will better protect the environment while restoring its capacity and ensuring reliable deliveries to U.S. refineries
Protesters said the Treaty People Gathering was the largest show of resistance yet to the project. They also rallied Monday at the headwaters of the Mississippi, roughly 20 minutes away, chanting “Stop Line 3!” and “Water is life!”
Among those attending was actress Jane Fonda, who held signs with President Joe Biden’s image that said, “Which side are you on?”
“This is important. This is what we need,” she told The Associated Press, motioning toward the crowd.
Biden has not taken a stand on Line 3.
Calgary-based Enbridge this month began a final construction push on Line 3, which clips a corner of North Dakota on its way across northern Minnesota to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wis. The Canadian and Wisconsin replacement segments are already carrying oil.
As Enbridge ramps up construction, the fight to stop Line 3 continues on other fronts. A major decision is expected from the Minnesota Court of Appeals in the next two weeks that could stop work on the project.
Meanwhile, more than 100 protesters camped overnight in the path of the pipeline near the Mississippi headwaters. They plan to continue to fight the pipeline on the ground, for as long as necessary.
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