On March 25, Indigenous water protectors and allies staged a direct action protest at a Line 3 construction site in Hubbard County, Minnesota. More than 10 Carleton students were involved in the protest, including four students who locked down to prevent construction and were among the 26 protesters arrested.
Line 3 is a pipeline proposed by Enbridge Energy in 2014 that, if completed, will run from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. Construction on the pipeline began last November after the final federal permit for the project was approved, although Enbridge faces legal challenges from environmental and Indigenous groups.
Carleton students’ participation in the action against Line 3 is part of their ongoing mobilization for climate justice.
What did the March 25 protest look like?
Protesters walked onto an active Line 3 construction site mid-morning. Seven Indigenous water protectors from five different nations prayed inside of a waaginogaan—a dome-shaped Anishinaabe prayer structure—while non-Indigenous allies locked down to each other in a ring around the structure. Locking down is a method protesters use to secure themselves to each other or to pieces of equipment in order to make it difficult for police to remove them from the scene.
The Indigenous prayer and ceremony that formed the center of the action set a powerful atmosphere for the protest.
“Even though I was not arrested, it was a really intense experience overall,” said Liora Newman ’23, who was on the side of the road until police arrived and gave a dispersal order. “There was this really somber air throughout the whole thing.”
Natalie Marsh ’21, one of the students locked down, described “an environment of stillness and silence and holding space for the gravity of what was going on there, and what has been going on this whole time that the pipeline is being built.”
Marsh, Anna Schumacher ’21, Maya Stovall ’23 and Avery Reyes Beattie ’24 were arrested on charges of trespassing, unlawful assembly and, for some of them, obstructing legal process. The arrested protesters were kenneled, strip-searched and shackled at Hubbard County Jail.
“The entire arrest and jailing portion was, I mean, designed to be demoralizing, and to take every inch of your will,” said Schumacher. Nonetheless, Stovall described feeling “really, really supported” by the networks of people in solidarity with the Line 3 movement.
Why direct action?
“The idea of direct action is to target the process that is causing the problem you’re trying to fight (in this case climate injustice) directly, as opposed to relying on a political or structural authority to solve the problem for you,” said Aashutosha Lele ’23, one of the students involved.
Nonviolent direct actions against Line 3 have been occurring since construction on the pipeline began. The actions are intended to delay construction and/or to cause Enbridge to lose money: “The eventual hope is that construction will be either delayed long enough for some kind of political process to catch up and stop it, or that it will become financially unviable for Enbridge to continue construction,” Lele explained.
All of the students interviewed emphasized the necessity of direct action in the fight against Line 3. “As we’ve seen in so many movements in the past, what do you do when the state fails you? You take action yourself,” Newman said, citing examples of direct action protests throughout U.S. history.
The need for direct action has also been seen in other pipeline fights, Lele said. “The political process usually doesn’t work, or it works too late, like in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline: many, many people sued the company building it… and then eventually won that court case, but by that time the pipeline was already built.”
Stovall said, “I think a lot of the time when we think of direct action we think of arrest and jail because it’s something we’re conditioned to be really afraid of, but I want to point out that our acts, especially in support of Indigenous prayer on their own treaty lands, are acts of necessity.”
Why is the fight against Line 3 important?
“I’m here to honor our original instructions, which is to care and be stewards of the land,” Ishkwaazhe Shane McSauby, a member of the Grand Traverse Band and one of those arrested at the March 25 protest, said in a Facebook post. “We’re on the verge of ecological devastation.”
Tara Houska, another protester and member of Couchiching First Nation, similarly said, “I’m taking these actions that so many before me have taken because we have to give voice to the voiceless, and we’re not going to achieve change comfortably. The world is on fire, the youth are literally fighting for their futures; we have to listen to those who are young who are telling us we have to change and we have to change now.”
Marsh referred to Line 3 as “an incredibly destructive project on the level of climate change—it will create the level of emissions equivalent to 50 coal plants once it’s running.”
Schumacher, who grew up in northern Minnesota, expressed the dissonance she has witnessed in those in the area who support the pipeline. “I know so many people whose lives are centered around how they recreate on the land, how they live off the land,” said Schumacher.
“And the thing is, if you’ve ever been up to northern Minnesota, it’s all water. When there’s a spill—and there will be a spill, because every pipeline spills—that’s not coming out,” said Schumacher.
Chen emphasized that not only are Indigenous peoples an oppressed group both in the U.S. and around the world, but that the “climate chaos created predominantly in higher classes in the West is unevenly distributed onto already oppressed people, particularly Indigenous people, but really all oppressed people,” said Chen. “That puts into perspective how we ought to leverage our privilege.”
“Even though we feel kind of removed from the people who are suffering the worst effects of this, you know, we’re not insulated from climate chaos. And we’re suffering under these oppressive systems as well,” said Chen.
While Enbridge cites economic incentives for the pipeline, such as increasing job numbers and stimulating the local economy, “because the majority of the workers come from out of state, most of those jobs are temporary, and only 20 of them are permanent,” Chen said.
Demand for limited resources is embedded in Line 3’s construction, Schumacher says. “As we’ve run out of oil in more accessible areas, the fossil fuel industry has expanded into even more remote or protected areas to extract as much oil as possible.”
“It’s become an incredibly unprofitable endeavor… That is oil that Enbridge will not be making money off of for 60 years if the pipeline is built,” said Schumacher. “Someone described [the fight against] Line 3 as the last nail in the coffin of the fossil fuel industry.”
Reyes Beattie expressed the urgency of stopping Line 3: “This pipeline is 50% of the way built already, and this fight is happening right now, it’s not going to be happening in a year and a half. We’re at a very critical juncture.”
Carls Against Line 3’s Call to Action
Students at Carleton organized as Carls Against Line 3 will continue to engage with the Line 3 movement in various ways this term, including bringing people up north.
“To any student reading this, we need you to help this fight and to help stop this pipeline. We need you to help stop this pipeline!” repeated Stovall. “The time is NOW. It’s halfway built [and] they’re going to be building it more in the summer.”Students interested in Carls Against Line 3 can email Avery Reyes Beattie for more information. “It can be kind of scary and intimidating to come into a space of people who […] seem very radical or more experienced than you, but all of us are on our own journeys, and we all learn collectively as a group,” said Chen. There is also information about where to donate, what media to follow and how to learn more about Line 3 at https://linktr.ee/stopline3.
We’re still waiting, and we’re still watching…
“For me one of the main issues that I personally had was that it was a group of majority white students interrupting a call that was being attended by majority BIPOC students. That’s one thing we’ve been wrestling with internally in Sunrise to make our further protests more equitable.’ Hardy-Mittell added that they are planning to release a message acknowledging the harm caused in the coming weeks.” (The Carletonian, February 27, 2021, in its coverage of actions by mostly white Sunrise students against mostly BIPOC professionals speaking to an audience of mostly BIPOC students on January 27, 2021).
Still no “message acknowledging the harm caused,” and still no evidence that Sunrise cares about the harm they caused.