DULUTH — The goal, stated repeatedly, has not been to just peacefully protest. It has been to “stop Line 3,” as a pipeline protester wrote in a Duluth News Tribune op-ed this month.
To that end, unlawful acts have included blocking public roads and highways shared by construction workers and the rest of us, damaging heavy equipment, protesters dangerously chaining themselves to equipment and materials, and protesters even more dangerously climbing into trenches and into the pipe itself that’s being installed along the construction route.
Stopping work and costing contractors — as well as law enforcement-supporting taxpayers — time and money is bragged about each time and cheered on social media.
On Friday, it escalated.
A suspicious “package” or “device” was thrown from a vehicle speeding away from a protest and into a Line 3 worksite west of Cloquet. Law enforcement acted responsibly by calling for a bomb squad, and some 40 nearby residents had to be evacuated, their lives needlessly disrupted by fear and intimidation. No doubt, this was the aim.
Such life-threatening and far-from-peaceful acts are unacceptable and demand to be condemned every time. Members of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa made that quite clear on Friday when, while waiting for the explosives experts, they blocked the protesters from reaching their nearby campsite. They called for the occupation of the camp to end. They bravely and sternly told the protesters to go home.
“It’s getting dangerous out here,” one counter protester said.
“I’m very upset,” Danielle Martineau, another tribal member who confronted the protesters, told the newspaper, her sentiment able to be echoed by reasonable Northlanders and other observers, in the face of this safety-threatening extremism. “People are scared It’s time to draw the line.”
The news report went on to state that “Danielle Martineau said enough was enough. The pipeline has been approved … and some tribal members are part of the crews working on the project. The presence of the (protesters) and their regular protest actions (have been) disruptive to the community, especially elders and children.”
On Saturday, the Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee said “the incident created widespread public safety concerns.” It called for “respect” from “outside protesters.” Clearly, it’s needed.
“Not everybody agrees with (our) decision to enter into a right-of-way agreement with Enbridge for 13.2 miles within the borders of Fond du Lac. The Reservation Business Committee’s decision was carefully considered and was made through the Band’s sovereign authority. We insist that outside protestors respect that authority,” the statement read.
The pipeline protesters have every right to peacefully and lawfully demonstrate, of course, and to express their distaste for the result of a years-long environmental review and regulatory process, as legitimate as was that process and its result. But demonstrations increasingly are becoming less lawful or peaceful.
The replacement of Line 3 is considered the most thoroughly scrutinized and studied-for-safety project of its kind in Minnesota state history. Following that exhaustive process, and only after careful consideration, the final federal and state permits for the project were granted in December. Construction started soon afterward with more than 5,000 Minnesotans, Minnesota tribal members, and out-of-town workers expected to be employed.
With those workers, especially out-of-towners, dropping big bucks on restaurant meals, hotel rooms, convenience-store snacks, and more, the project is an economic boon for Minnesota, especially northern Minnesota, after local budgets, coffers, and cash registers were decimated this past year by the COVID-19 pandemic.
By replacing an aging pipeline with a state-of-the-art new one that’s less likely to fail, the project also is a victory for Minnesota’s environment.
In the coming months, the project can be peaceful or it can become a flashpoint. Which way it goes will depend on the respect given to a trustworthy, inclusive, and legitimate public-permitting and environmental-review process — as well as the respect shown to the Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee’s difficult decision.
Unlawful acts to “stop Line 3,” apparently at all costs, show disrespect instead, and they endanger the public, workers, and even the protesters who are spending countless hours in the dangerous cold.
As the Fond du Lac Band’s Danielle Martineau said, enough is enough. If the protesters aren’t willing to be peaceful and lawful, it’s time for them to disperse and go home — before there really is a bomb, unlike Friday’s frightening false alarm. Before somebody needlessly gets hurt.
This other view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Duluth News Tribune.