Six arrested in protest at pipeline worksite in Douglas County
Six people were arrested on trespassing charges Tuesday morning after their protest stopped work on a segment of Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline construction in rural Douglas County.
People identifying themselves as water protectors shut down heavy equipment operations for a third time in nine days near the Wisconsin-Minnesota border, southwest of Superior.
The protesters live-streamed video from the worksite on social media after sunrise and before the authorities arrived. The protests were calling for the removal of Line 3.
"We're here in a peaceful, safe way to show you that this can't go through," one female protester can be heard telling a Douglas County sheriff's deputy on a Facebook video, as he informs the group that they are trespassing and need to leave.
"We're not moving because we're trying to make a point," another protester says.
The same video showed arrests taking place about an hour later.
"There are a lot of ways for them to protest legally," Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec said shortly after the arrests. "They chose not to adhere to the law, so here we are today."
Enbridge is constructing a new pipeline to replace the existing 50-year-old Line 3 that crosses northern Minnesota on its route from Alberta to Superior. The replacement is currently under construction in Canada and Wisconsin, and awaiting the outcome of a review process in Minnesota.
The protesters on Tuesday boarded a single piece of heavy equipment; the Native American environmental group Honor the Earth reported that one of those arrested locked himself to the equipment. The protest was in defiance of an Enbridge pledge from last weekend to prosecute future worksite intrusions as trespassing; similar stoppages occurred twice along the line last week.
The arrests involved multiple squads and were mostly peaceful, Dalbec said, save for one person who "had to be taken to the ground." The six people arrested had all left the roadside and went onto the worksite, he said.
Parts of County Road W, also known as Military Road, were shut down by Douglas County sheriff's deputies while negotiations and subsequent arrests were being made. Protests along the road ended after the arrests, Dalbec said.
Work resumed in the pipeline right of way adjacent to County Road W shortly after 10:30 a.m.
Dalbec met with water protectors on Monday — at the state line where they'd gathered and stayed along the roadside, he said, adjacent to the work. In the wake of Enbridge's announcement that it would press charges against protesters who disrupt work on the pipeline, Dalbec checked in to warn the protesters to "stay off the work site."
The six protesters appeared on the Douglas County Jail roster as being held on trespassing of real property charges, and some with the added pending charge of obstructing justice. Three of those arrested, who all were between ages 23-38, were listed as being from Cloquet; the others were from Michigan, South Dakota and Saskatchewan. Dalbec said it was being debated if the charges would be misdemeanors or felonies, and that the lead counsel with the county was considering its options.
The News Tribune does not generally name suspects until after formal charges are filed.
The six remained in the Douglas County Jail as of Tuesday night; fundraising efforts to provide bail money were underway online as fellow activists spoke out in support.
Honor the Earth's Tara Houska said that resistance movements have grown, and will continue to grow, in the wake of the Dakota Access pipeline protests in North Dakota.
"There are a lot of calls coming from the ground to join (the resistance)," Houska said. "A lot of people that were in the Dakota Access fight were from Minnesota and Wisconsin, and those folks are not willing to let this go through the treaty lands."
Kylie Lemley, also of Honor the Earth, said Tuesday's arrests can send a message to those involved in the review process in Minnesota.
"This is something that could considerably be brought to Minnesota and nobody wants another Standing Rock," Lemley said. "I think (the protesters) were brave, I think they were following their hearts and I am just hopeful that everybody takes this as what it is — a sign for what is to possibly come."
Enbridge spokeswoman Becky Haase of Superior said in a news release Tuesday that "while our preference is always to seek to resolve differences of opinion through dialogue — peacefully and respectfully — we can't continue to tolerate trespassing, vandalism, or unlawful actions that put people and the environment at risk."
Haase noted that the work underway near Superior "is being done in accordance with regulatory approval by the state of Wisconsin. An environmental impact statement was conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as part of the regulatory process. The Line 3 Replacement Project is an essential safety and maintenance project."
The News Tribune's Brady Slater, Andee Erickson and Andrew Krueger contributed to this report.