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Video: Police Let Militants Shout and Shut Down State Pipeline Hearing

Media coverage of the Enbridge 3 pipeline hearing this week in Duluth virtually glossed over the intimidating tactics used by militant protesters to shut down the public meeting.  It’s almost as if the threatening incident was an afterthought in the Duluth News Tribune version of the orchestrated chaos.

Video posted on social media from later in the evening hearing showed a disruption of the proceedings, with some pipeline opponents shouting “shut it down.” Duluth police said there were no citations and no arrests.

The paper glossed over the bullying behavior that allowed about 15 pipeline opponents to wrest control of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission hearing before a stunned standing room only crowd and the administrative law judge nominally in charge.

Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly presided over the hearings and gave an upbeat tone to the proceedings, which often moved from one written statement to another — though one woman offered her comments in song, to bipartisan applause from the audience.

But video of the last few minutes of pandemonium portray a much different reality. A group of about 15 militant activists hijacked the proceedings, trading turns shouting barbs at O’Reilly and the audience.

“Here’s the deal. If you don’t sit down, I’m going to have to have you removed. I don’t want to do it, it’s really unpleasant,” O’Reilly said matter-of-factly.

But it was an empty threat, only leading to more jeers and cat-calls from the clearly emboldened activists.

 “You tell us we can’t speak while the good-old-boy, John Deere-driving, tobacco-chewing Enbridge people get to speak?” taunted one militant. “This is a racist hearing, racism exists here in Duluth. Shut this sh– down here. Shut it down.”

In the video police intervened once, moments after the meeting was closed, when an activist got a hold of a microphone.

The breakdown in security raises concerns over a repeat performance by activists at the MPUC pipeline hearing next Wednesday in Brainerd.

Before putting the public and panelists in potential jeopardy again, the MPUC needs to address several concerns.

Was the MPUC satisfied with the way police handled the incident? Was a police complaint filed? Why did ALJ O’Reilly end the hearing rather than wait for order to be restored? Did O’Reilly fear for her and the panel’s safety? What steps will state authorities take to maintain control of the Brainerd hearing?

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