Police brutality escalates along Line 3 Pipeline as protestors face felony charges

Ari O'Kirby, IV Leader Columnist

Protestors on the Minnesotan frontlines of the Line 3 pipeline probably never expected to face felonies and facial paralysis when they decided to join the movement, yet… they are.

Why? Corporate greed…? Corrupt law enforcement…? Racist and anti-indigenous undertones? A desperate working class pitted against each other while Bigwigs pull puppet strings across national borders? It’s a potent and volatile mix of all of the above that’s coming to a violent head as we speak.

What could be so threatening about this proposed pipeline project that sovereign citizens are willing to risk their lives to stop it? Well, it’s going through nearly half of North America’s freshwater and is being built by the Canadian multinational responsible for the largest inland oil spill in US history: Enbridge.

Proponents of the pipeline claim it is just a “replacement,” but “expansion” would be more accurate; the proposed pipeline veers off dramatically from the original built in the 1960s, and would cross beneath the Mississippi River twice. An oil spill that could drain into the Mississippi puts the rights to clean water of millions of Americans at risk, including us.

The proposed expansion also crosses through farmland, personal property, and the 1855 treaty territories of the Anishinaabe people. Historically, the US Supreme Court has upheld the rights of native peoples to live off the land, and construction of this pipeline would be a direct violation of the treaty rights of the Anishinaabe by endangering primary areas of hunting, fishing, wild rice, and cultural resources.

Given that this project carries long term environmental and social risks while benefiting only a select few (Enbridge and construction crews) on a short-sighted, economic basis, it has become a representative microcosm for our climate crisis as a whole.

The decision to stop this pipeline would send a firm message that America is serious about addressing climate change and taking active steps towards a more sustainable future. Yet, despite all their talk of a greener future, the Biden administration has remained silent amidst the multi-year effort of “water protectors.”

Tensions are escalating as Enbridge rushes to finish the project, even going so far as to buy a formidable ally: the police. According to Intercept, Enbridge has funneled over $1 million to local sheriff’s departments in Minnesota “to help with the costs of policing Enbridge’s political opponents” by way of a public escrow account run by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

In a shocking post from August 29, the Giniw Collective (frontline organizers) revealed that what began with the usual attacks of pepper spray and rubber bullets has snowballed into “pain compliance” tactics and life-destroying felony charges.

On June 23, three water protectors who chained themselves to machinery were charged with felony theft. Since then nearly 100 water protectors have been charged with felonies and assigned bail amounts ranging from $10,000 – $50,000 without conditions, and up to $25,000 with conditions.

One commented, “There is a deep irony in being charged for theft on stolen land, by the state apparatus that stole it, in being charged with felony theft for a company that is actively stealing our clean water, our clean air, and our livable future.”

On Aug. 11, water protectors shut down multiple worksites by locking themselves to equipment. Upon arrival, the Hubbard County sheriffs began torturing protestors by immobilizing them from the neck up and violently squeezing pressure points on the head, face, and jaw to the point of eliciting screams. According to Giniw, two water protectors have lasting facial paralysis as a result.

In a post from Sept. 9, Giniw Collective remarked, “We are brutalized for love of water, for defending the drinking water of millions. Hold each other dearly, please think of land defenders and the risks we take for the protection of all.”

If you would like to support these individuals in their efforts to defend our water supply, please consider signing the petition, donating to bail funds, or visiting them on the frontlines. Visit stopline3.org for more information.