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While Claiming ‘Environmental Justice,’ Pipeline Protesters Vandalize Native-Owned Businesses

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  • Jun 17, 2021

To stop construction of the Line 3 pipeline replacement project in Minnesota, activists have increasingly argued for environmental justice for Native Americans who live along the route. But recent vandalism against Native-owned businesses suggests those arguments may be more geared toward attracting media attention.

The project, which would replace a section of a crude pipeline that runs from Canadian oil fields to a refinery in Superior, Wisconsin, crosses through tribal lands in Minnesota – an issue that has been used to protest the pipeline.

But despite claiming to support Native people, these activists are actually inflicting severe economic disruption on tribes and Native workers.

Taking a page from the not-so-peaceful protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline several years ago, the Line 3 protesters recently crossed the line into vandalism and property destruction. Enbridge, the company that operates the pipeline, said that protesters destroyed “environmental safeguards and damage control equipment,” and that Native American workers were caught in the middle of it all:

“Protesters attempted to trap workers while forcefully entering and then occupying the site, trespassing and criminally damaging property.

“…Safety is our first priority, and to that end workers evacuated from the site, including employees of Native owned contractor Gordon Construction from the White Earth Reservation. Over 500 native workers are part of the Line 3 workforce.” (emphasis added)

In response, several Native-owned contractors working on the pipeline sent a letter to tribal leaders about what happened, explaining that “many of our Native workers again were forced to leave their job site on the Line 3 replacement project because protestors trespassed into a construction site and vandalized equipment.”

Those Native business owners said the actions of protestors do not speak for everyone, as the Star Tribune reported:

“Native American contractors working on the controversial Enbridge Line 3 pipeline across Minnesota say the Indigenous-led protests that escalated Monday do not speak for them.

“‘Protests that disrupt work, damage property and threaten our employees while claiming to be on behalf of our Native people is creating additional tension and consequences within our tribal communities,’ six contractors wrote in a letter being sent to Minnesota tribal leaders this week. ‘They also intentionally create a false narrative that there is no Native American support for this project and the economic impacts and opportunities it brings to our people.’” (emphasis added)

Unfortunately, like the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline and other projects, the activists opposing the Line 3 replacement left behind plenty of garbage that had to be cleaned up.

Photo credit: Enbridge

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