MEDIA RELEASE: Minnesota religious, spiritual leaders call on top state officials to oppose Line 3 police violence

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TWIN CITIES – August 17, 2020 – In a strongly worded letter to ranking state officials, more than 400 religious and spiritual leaders from around Minnesota are calling on government leaders to rein in law enforcement responses to the inevitable protests against Enbridge Line 3 –- should the line be approved and built. Indigenous people as well as their non-indigenous allies have argued for years this project violates treaty right, environmental rules, and common sense. They will resist.

The letter – available at https://mnipl.nationbuilder.com/police_brutality_lettercomes as Governor Walz has to decide to continue to support the appeal made by the Minnesota Department of Commerce of the Public Utilities Commission approval of the project which expires August 19, 2020. And it sounds a cautionary note about the potential use of force if protesters exercise their First Amendment rights.

Signatories include:

Bishop Bruce Ough, The United Methodist Church

Rev. Dr. Curtiss DeYoung, CEO, Minnesota Council of Churches

Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, Director of Racial Justice, Minnesota Council of Churches

Rev. Joann Conroy, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

Ricky DeFoe, Pipe Carrier, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

Rabbis Michael Adam Latz and Arielle Lekach-Rosenberg, Shir Tikvah (Jewish)

Rev. Ben Connelly, Minnesota Zen Meditation Center

Anita Bradshaw, Associate Conference Minister, Mayflower United Church of Christ and the Minnesota Conference, United Church of Christ

Sean Dunham, President, Executive Board, Headwaters Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Bemidji MN

Karen Wills, Executive Director, Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance

Julia Nerbonne, Executive Director, Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light

View the full list of 400+ signatories here.

The letter references the law enforcement responses at Standing Rock in 2016 and at protests over George Floyd’s killing, showing that something else is needed rather than a full-blown military operation. And it warns of the strident and questionable law enforcement plans already in place with The Northern Lights Task Force, which has consulted with Morton County in North Dakota about its tactics during the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) protests at Standing Rock. That pipeline was recently ordered to shut down by a Federal district court until a thorough Environmental Impact Statement can be done.

“We know that Minnesota law enforcement have been preparing to forcefully quell protests against Enbridge Line 3, should the project ever be built,” says Julia Nerbonne, Executive Director of MIPL. “In 2018 the state organized the “Northern Lights Task Force,” a coalition of law enforcement agencies preparing for Line 3 protests, including training and stockpiling gear.”

“The Canadian pipeline corporation Enbridge is also helping to coordinate communications, resources, and even funding the purchase of policing equipment through the PUC’s alarmingly short-sighted approval of the line again — despite the intensifying threats from global climate change and the immediate threats from the Covid-19 global pandemic,” she added.

Letter Urges Officials to Abide by Human and Civil Rights Standards

Guided by Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light and Honor the Earth, the letter reaches out to select Minnesota officials with these key policy messages and personal pleas:

  • To Public Utilities Commissioner and Chair, Kathy Sieben: “We call on you to transparently define the criteria for— and limits on— funding for law enforcement via the “Public Safety Escrow Trust” in the Route Permit for Line 3, to be in explicit accordance with international human rights standardsregarding use of police force.”
  • To Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan: “We call you to take leadership to ensure all state responses to protests adhere to your own Executive Order 13-10, which mandates a process of tribal consultation for each of your agencies whose work intersects with sovereign tribal nations.”
  • To Commissioner John Harrington, the Department of Public Safety: “You must ensure that Enbridge cannot influence state public safety decisions.  We ask that when deciding police protocol for use-of-force, you make your decision-making process transparent to the public.”
  • To Rebecca Lucero, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights: “We call you to prepare on-the-ground human-rights observers as actively as Enbridge and the state and local law enforcement agencies seem to be preparing law enforcement to escalate violence. We need more than a civil rights investigation after the fact; we also need proactive protection of human rights [as the legal appeals and other actions about Line 3 move forward in the months ahead].”

For more information – or to interview Julia Nerbonne and or Winona LaDuke about the Open Letter and the other issues related to Line 3 – please contact Martin Keller, Media Savant Communications, 612-729-8585, [email protected]