By Hilary Beaumont
VICE News (11/3/17)
A protest camp resembling the early days of Standing Rock has sprung up in Minnesota with the goal of stopping the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, a new project that would triple the capacity of an existing pipeline from the Alberta oil sands into the U.S.
Enbridge Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta says it is simply replacing and upgrading an existing aging pipeline built in the 1960s, but activists point out that the new project will allow the company to move 760,000 barrels of oil per day, up from its current 390,000 barrels a day.
Makwa [Bear] Camp started in August on an Indigenous reservation outside of Duluth and has grown in recent weeks amid nearby regulatory hearings over the Line 3 pipeline, running from Alberta across the Prairies to the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota. With the pipeline expansion approved in Canada, North Dakota and Wisconsin, Minnesota’s backing is all it needs to proceed, so that’s where activists are staging their resistance. It is not known exactly how many people are staying in Makwa Camp but local media estimates are in the hundreds.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the Line 3 renewal project nearly a year ago. This summer, Enbridge started construction on the project in Canada and Wisconsin, where it has the permits to proceed.
Wisconsin, too, has seen tension. In August, six people were arrested in that state after they locked themselves to pipeline construction equipment.
Opponents, who call themselves water protectors, say the pipeline will inevitably leak, threatening the land and water, while supporters say the project will bring jobs and prosperity.
In a series of hearings, the Public Utility Commission, a state regulator, is reviewing whether the project is needed. The commission is expected to release its decision to approve or reject the project in April.
The public hearings have been tense so far. A video of the hearings posted on the Makwa Camp Facebook group showed security telling Indigenous people they could not drum inside the building. At one point security would not let Indigenous people into the meeting, before relenting moments later.
Inside the meeting room, a white man in denim overalls, who was testifying at the hearings, stood up, raised his fists over his head and yelled, “God bless the pipeline and God bless America!” But when an Indigenous woman was told she couldn’t testify, cries of “let us speak!” broke out from pipeline opponents. One protester grabbed the mic. Then they began drumming and singing, with fists raised in the air, shutting down the meeting.
Indigenous resistance along the pipeline route in Canada is growing, too. Activists in Manitoba are planning to drive along the pipeline route the weekend of Nov. 6 in an attempt to convince farmers to revoke their consent for the pipeline to cross their fields. And the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is fighting the pipeline’s approval in court. …