The dozens of activists gathered shortly before 12:30 p.m. and marched to downtown, where they stood in a square set off by four large banners in the middle of the crossing.
The Sierra Club offered play-by-play coverage on its Facebook page with updates on the potential confrontation between activists dancing in the streets and about 20 law enforcement officers.
It’s hard to see how the antics on display in Bemidji would be effective in persuading the public to get behind the activists’ cause.
“We’re here to say no to Line 3,” said Margaret Levin, the state director of the Sierra Club, a nationwide environmental organization that helped organize Wednesday’s rally. “We’re asking Gov. Dayton to halt the new Line 3 pipeline and we’re here to hold space, to hear voices, to hear stories of people who are directly affected by this project.”
Group members remained sitting at the intersection with banners reading “Cut off the head of the black snake” and “Rise to protect our water communities & climate” placed on the ground.
Bemidji Police Mike Mastin gave the dancing disrupters plenty of time to get back on the sidewalks before issuing citations. Then with reinforcements from the Minnesota State Patrol and Beltrami County Sheriff, the cops cleared the way.
A core group refused to move from the main protest spot, linking arms as they sang, danced and chanted in the middle of the intersection. At about 3:40 p.m. police and Beltrami County deputies began to escort small groups of people to police cars, where they were cited.
Twenty-six people were cited for disorderly conduct and no one was arrested, according to Mastin. About 20 law enforcement officials were on the scene.
It was a just a warm-up for what’s to come with authorities making it clear they will enforce the law if push comes to shove. But it’s hard to say whether they got through to their target audience.
“I’m going to do everything in the regulatory and legal arena to stop this pipeline, and then I’m hoping that I don’t have to put my 59-year-old body on the line, but I’m going to do that,’ LaDuke said. “We did all the legal and regulatory action and we intend to increase the amount of people that are standing there opposing the line.”