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Despite plea for cancellation, Duluth says it can't call off anti-Line 3 concert at city park

Northern Minnesota officials urged the city to cancel next week's "Water is Life: Stop Line 3" concert because the group hosting it has supported protests in their communities.

File: Annie Humphrey
Annie Humphrey performed during the "Water is Life" Festival at Bayfront Festival Park in 2018 and returns in 2021 as part of a lineup that includes Bon Iver and Lissie. Tyler Schank / File / Duluth News Tribune
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A group of local officials along the route of Enbridge's nearly completed Line 3 oil pipeline across northern Minnesota asked the city of Duluth to cancel a fundraising concert planned for next week by pipeline opponents at a city-owned park. But city officials have denied their request, citing the group's First Amendment rights and pointing out that they have received all the necessary permits to host such an event.

In an Aug. 5 letter sent by Thief River Falls Mayor Brian Holmer and signed by Grand Rapids Mayor Dale Cristy and Hill City Mayor Sean Lathrop, among other northern Minnesota officials, to Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, Council President Renee Van Nett and Council Vice President Arik Forsman, the officials urged the city to cancel the Aug. 18 "Water is Life: Stop Line 3" concert at Bayfront Festival Park . The letter says the host, Indigenous-led environmental group Honor the Earth, has been organizing and supporting protests along the pipeline route, some of which have led to confrontations with police.

Since construction on the 340-mile Minnesota segment began in December, nearly 700 protesters have been arrested along the route as they tried blocking or slowing construction of the pipeline.

"We write this letter because of our concern for our communities and our first responders," the officials wrote. "We respectfully ask you to help us prevent future avoidable conflicts. On behalf of the people we represent, we strongly request that you rescind Honor the Earth’s permits and not allow this concert to move forward."

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson responded the next morning in an email, provided by the city to the News Tribune on Wednesday. She clarified that while Bayfront is city-owned, the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center manages Bayfront.

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"More to your point, however, is your ask to revoke constitutionally protected rights to gather in a public space for an event I may or may not personally agree with. If the group pulls the appropriate permits, follows the rules and pays the rental fees, we do not discriminate," Larson wrote. "This follows the legal advice I’ve been given on this matter."

She added that if permitted rules are not followed, there will be "public safety or legal action" and there will be a "public safety presence" like at other events.

"In the past, this specific gathering has followed all the rules so I don’t anticipate it going off track," Larson said.

In a statement Tuesday, Honor the Earth said the claims in the letter were "bogus" and that Honor the Earth and its founder Winona LaDuke do not incite violence.

On Wednesday morning, DECC spokesperson Lucie Amundsen said the DECC was unaware of the request for cancellation and declined to comment.

The Minnesota segment of Line 3 is about 80% complete and is expected to be finished by the fourth quarter of this year, Minnesota Public Radio reported this week .

Once complete, the new pipeline will carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada, to Enbridge's terminal in Superior. Opponents of the pipeline say it is unnecessary, that it worsens climate change, risks an oil spill and violates Indigenous and treaty rights.

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jlovrien@duluthnews.com or 218-723-5332.
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