Minnesota police have billed over $1.7 million to account set up by Canadian company building Line 3 tar sands pipeline

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On August 4, Ojibwe water protector Tara Houska told Democracy Now! about the funding relationship between Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. and police forces in Minnesota.

Houska said: “It’s, at this point, a pretty known thing that police officers are reimbursed for any costs associated with Enbridge Line 3 protests, and it seems like they welcome the opportunity. One police officer was actually grinning and smiling and said he had a great time [arresting us] and couldn’t wait for us to come again.”

She then highlighted: “They’ve billed over $1.7 million to the Public Safety Escrow Trust, in which Enbridge is dumping millions of dollars to incentivize and encourage police officers to repress, suppress and surveil, harass Indigenous people and our allies that are helping us try to stop this pipeline from happening in our treaty territory.”

Emily Atkin has reported in Heated: “Enbridge established a financial relationship with Minnesota law enforcement in May 2020, when the state Public Utilities Commission approved Line 3’s route permit. That permit required the oil giant to set up a special fund that would reimburse police responding to anything pipeline-related.”

Payments to police departments

Atkin further highlighted the reimbursement requests from the police (as of this past March) include “nearly $72,000 worth of riot gear and more than $10,000 in ‘less than lethal’ weapons and ammunition, including tear gas, pepper spray, bean bag and sponge rounds, flash-bang devices, and batons.”

On April 26 of this year, the Duluth News Tribune reported: “From the start of Line 3 construction Dec. 1 to mid-March, agencies have been reimbursed more than $537,000 for expenses resulting from responding to anti-pipeline protests.”

Earlier this month, the Alexandria Echo Press reported Cass County had billed the Enbridge escrow account for 7,500 hours of “overtime” over a three-month period and that “Beltrami County was recently reimbursed more than $170,522 for expenses related to Line 3 construction site law enforcement.”

And on July 22, The Intercept reported that in November 2020, Aitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron Cook emailed a gun seller: “I’m hoping the pipeline will give us an extra boost to next year’s budget, which should make it easy for me to propose an upgrade/trade to your rifles rather than a rebuild of our 8 Bushmasters [assault rifles].”

Escalating police violence

Minnesota police are now escalating their violence against water protectors.

The Giniw Collective recently posted: “For the first time in this campaign, police used pepper spray, mace and ‘less than lethal’ bullets on unarmed Water Protectors just south of Thief River Falls on July 29th at Red Lake River crossing at the Red Lake Treaty Camp.”

Export pipeline threatens wild rice

The Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. 760,000 barrel per day Line 3 tar sands pipeline would run from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin (just south of Duluth, Minnesota). 531 kilometres of the 1,659 long kilometre pipeline would cross Minnesota.

It would also cross over 3,400 acres of wild rice waters. Anishinaabe water protector Winona LaDuke has stated: “Wild rice is our life. Where there’s Anishinaabe there’s rice. Where there’s rice there’s Anishinaabe. It’s our most sacred food. It’s who we are.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the construction of the Line 3 tar sands export pipeline in November 2016.

The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has documented that the top five financiers of Enbridge are Canadian banks: TD Bank, Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, RBC and CIBC. Collectively they have provided billions of dollars in financing to Enbridge.

You can follow this struggle on Twitter at @GiniwCollective and @zhaabowekwe.

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