Last weekend, at least 20 people were arrested in Minnesota for protesting the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline that would transport Canadian tar sands into the United States. The protestors have been fighting Canadian fossil fuel giant Enbridge for five years. The recent arrests were accompanied by tear gas and painful rubber-coated bullets.
“The level of brutality that was unleashed on us was very extreme,” said indigenous lawyer and activist Tara Houska, according to Democracy Now. “People were shot in their faces, in their bodies, in their upper torsos. I saw a young woman’s head get split open right in front of me.” Police outnumbered protestors by at least two to one, according to Houska. They threw protestors face down in the dirt to arrest them.
Houska suffered injuries from rubber bullets. She and other protestors were held at Pennington County Jail, where they were denied proper food and medical care. Houska spent time in solitary confinement.
There’s already a pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Wisconsin. But the new Line 3 is a huge project that would cross three indigenous reservations in Minnesota. This includes land where the Ojibwe people have the treaty-promised right to fish, hunt and gather wild rice.
Most of the protestors are from indigenous and climate justice groups. They say that Line 3 would compromise water and land rights and indigenous sovereignty. The pipeline would also bring with it the harmful effects of possible oil spills in indigenous communities.
So where are President Biden, the Green New Deal and an alternative energy-run infrastructure in all this? Houska said that the indigenous people around the globe who are trying to protect beautiful, sacred places can’t do it fast enough when faced with governmental inertia. “In the conversations and arguments, that are very based in status quo, in this idea that we will continue on in the way that we have always done things, and that it is simply a matter of transitioning into another form of energy economy, that is not reflective of what is actually happening.”
What is happening? A climate crisis. And no amount of tar sands will solve it.
Lead image via Lorie Shaull