Two Dozen Anti-Pipeline Protesters Arrested in Bemidji: They Aren’t The Heroes They Think They Are

More than two dozen people were cited as about 100 people gathered and blocked streets in downtown Bemidji yesterday in opposition of the Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project.

According to the Pioneer Press:

“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.”

“Group members in bright vests instructed passing cars to take other routes and bypass the demonstration, while protesters chanted, drummers sang and women in jingle dresses danced in the street.”

“We’re here to say no to Line 3,” said Margaret Levin, the state director of the Sierra Club..”

“At about 1:30 p.m., the Bemidji Police Department blocked off multiple streets. And shortly after 3 p.m., Police Chief Mike Mastin told the crowd to disperse, saying that anyone present after 10 minutes could be arrested or cited.”

“Shortly after Mastin issued the dispersal order, Beltrami County deputies and Minnesota State Patrol officers also arrived at the scene. Mastin issued five warnings before officers began to issue citations.”

“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.”

Anti-pipeline activists forget that engineering is a science, and that it allows us to transport oil and natural gas safely through pipelines more than 99.9 percent of the time. These people are not defenders of science or the environment. They’re a sideshow movement that has deluded themselves into thinking they are somehow saving the planet, when in reality the policies they advocate put the environment at greater risk.

I’m on the email list for the Sierra Club  in Minnesota, and the way they described the event you’d think they were coming home from winning World War II. I’ve pasted the body of the email below:

Dear Isaac,

Today in Bemidji, I joined partners from across our movement to risk arrest in order to escalate our call to stop Line 3. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) failed Minnesotans when they approved the Line 3 pipeline, siding with a foreign pipeline company to allow them to run more dirty tar sands through some of our most precious natural and cultural resources.

So we are escalating our call to action to stop this project. This is not a decision I took lightly. In its 125-year history, this is only the third time Sierra Club leaders have participated in a peaceful direct action to risk arrest. Civil disobedience has a long and dignified history of helping people speak truth to power. At this critical moment, I feel a great obligation and responsibility to do everything in my power to stand with allies, and fight for the clean energy future that we know is possible.

For years, we have been working against tar sands expansion with community members, tribal leaders, faith leaders and other environmental groups. By standing with these groups in action today we sent a strong and unified message: together we are resolved to protect land, clean water, Tribal sovereignty, and our climate.

Up until now we have been engaged in the state’s process through the PUC, urging them to make the right choice and reject this tar sands pipeline. You, our members and supporters, joined us submitting public comments, attending hearings, rallying across the state, and building the movement in opposition to Line 3. But the PUC ignored the tens of thousands of public comments, of which over 90% were against the pipeline. The PUC even rejected testimony from the Minnesota Department of Commerce which concluded the benefits of Line 3 are outweighed by the harm it will cause.

The PUC process was flawed and it failed. Our actions today highlight this failure and our commitment to stopping Line 3.

Join us in telling Gov. Dayton to act immediately to halt the permits and any pre-construction until legal appeals have been heard, courts have weighed in, and the tribal cultural properties survey has been completed and its findings fully considered.

Enbridge’s track record and history of spills makes it clear that this pipeline poses an unacceptable threat of permanent damage to the Mississippi River headwaters region and the pristine lake country of northern Minnesota. The route also directly threatens Ojibwe wild rice treaty rights and sensitive ricing waters. Minnesotans shouldn’t have to bear these risks for the benefit of foreign tar sands companies. Instead, we must transition from fossil fuels to clean energy solutions that support local economies, public health, and a clean, just, equitable future.

Our clean water and our communities are on the line, and we won’t stop fighting to protect them.

In hope and solidarity,

Margaret Levin
Sierra Club North Star Chapter
State Director

I find their assessment of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission particularly interesting. The PUC didn’t want to approve the pipeline. In fact, multiple commissioners were visibly distraught while announcing their decision, with a few of them even crying, when they were forced to confront the reality that we all need the oil the pipeline would transport, and replacing an old pipeline with a state-of-the art pipeline would reduce the risk to the environment.

Also, I don’t think these folks understand that transitioning to wind and solar would involve more mining, which one can be relatively certain these folks would also oppose.

This makes the protesters environmental zeroes, not heroes.