On Thursday evening, dozens of water protectors with the movement to stop Line 3 interrupted the installation of Mitchell Hamline School of Law’s new dean featuring keynote speaker Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Others in attendance included Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan and state Supreme Court Justice Anne McKeig. During Ellison’s speech, the activists confronted the Attorney General about the Line 3 tar sands pipeline and his silence on the matter.
While inside the auditorium, multiple people presented the Attorney Governor with questions about Line 3. One water protector asked, “What will you do about the frivolous charges brought against over 800 people drawing attention to Line 3’s climate impacts and civil rights violations?” Ellison did not address any of the audience’s questions, meanwhile security guards forcibly removed water protectors. The Attorney General agreed to meet with the group after the event in which he did.
After the event, Ellison met with protestors outside including Taysha Martineau and Jaike Spotted-Wolf, leaders of Camp Migizi, a frontline Line 3 resistance camp. Ellison spent the majority of the interaction critiquing the activists’ tone and disruptive actions, claiming he’s “never been pro-Line 3, but [doesn’t] have the power to do anything about Line 3”. Martineau expressed deep worry for their daughters and land in light of human trafficking including Enbridge workers and destruction left by construction. Ellison agreed to call commissioners on this issue before leaving the meeting.
At the 2015 Tar Sands Resistance March, then-Congressman Ellison explicitly stated his stance against oil pipelines, saying the oil industry prioritizes profits over real human consequences and reassuring his constituents that there were members of the Minnesota State Legislature fighting against the fossil industry. However, since he was elected to the office of the Attorney General, Ellison has not been outspoken on the issue.
Meanwhile in Michigan, Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a lawsuit to decommission Enbridge’s Line 5. Nessel has said repeatedly that she will use her authority to shut down Line 5, as it presents a serious spill risk to Lakes Michigan and Huron. Indigenous water protectors and climate activists have called on Minnesota’s State Legislature to take action to stop Line 3 over the years, citing threats to Anishinaabe treaty rights, water, Indigenous cultural resources, and the future of global climate.
President Biden too has yet to take a definitive stance on Line 3. Since construction began, more than 800 water protectors have been arrested for peaceful demonstration along the frontlines. Dozens of federal lawmakers, including Minnesota Representative Dean Phillips, have voiced support for the movement, urging President Biden to cancel the pipeline as he did with Keystone XL. When completed, the Line 3 pipeline will carry tar sands oil equivalent to the emissions of 50 coal-fired power plants.
Coverage by Nadia Shaarawi and Emma Leigh