This story originally appeared in Common Dreams on Sept. 13, 2022. It is shared here under a Creative Commons license.
Indigenous water defenders and their allies on Tuesday celebrated a Minnesota court ruling protecting a Line 3 protest camp from illegal government repression.
Hubbard County District Judge Jana Austad issued a ruling shielding the Indigenous-led Giniw Collective’s Camp Namewag—where opponents organize resistance to Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline—from local law enforcement’s unlawful blockades and harassment.
The ruling follows months of litigation on behalf of Indigenous water protectors, whose legal team last year secured a temporary restraining order issued by Austad against Hubbard County, Sheriff Cory Aukes, and the local land commissioner for illegally blocking access to Camp Namewag.
“Today David beat Goliath in a legal victory for people protecting the climate from rapacious corporate destruction,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, director of the Center for Protest Law & Litigation at the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said in a statement.
“The outrageous blockade and repression of an Indigenous-led water protector camp were fueled by massive sums of money flowing from the Enbridge corporation to the sheriff’s department as it acted against water protectors challenging Enbridge’s destruction of Native lands,” she added.
Indigenous activist and Giniw Collective founder Tara Houska, who is a plaintiff in the case, said that “15 months ago, I was woken up at 6:00 am and walked down my driveway to a grinning sheriff holding a notice to vacate my yearslong home.”
“That day turned into 50 squad cars on a dirt road and a riot line blocking my driveway,” she recalled. “Twelve people—guests from all over who came to protect the rivers and wild rice from Line 3 tar sands—were arrested and thrown into the dirt.”
Today’s ruling is a testament to the lengths Hubbard County was willing to go to criminalize and harass Native women, land defenders, and anyone associated with us—spending unknown amounts of taxpayer dollars and countless hours trying to convince the court that the driveway to Namewag camp wasn’t a driveway. It’s also a testament to steadfast commitment to resisting oppression. This is a piece in the long game and we aren’t afraid. We haven’t forgotten the harms to us and the harms to the Earth. Onward.
Winona LaDuke, co-founder and executive director of Honor the Earth and a former Green Party vice presidential candidate, stated that “we are grateful to Judge Austad for recognizing how Hubbard County exceeded its authority and violated our rights.”
“Today’s ruling shows that Hubbard County cannot repress Native people for the benefit of Enbridge by circumventing the law,” she added. “This is also an important victory for all people of the North reinforcing that a repressive police force should not be able to stop you from accessing your land upon which you hunt or live.”
EarthRights general counsel Marco Simons asserted that “the court’s ruling is a major rebuke to police efforts to unlawfully target water protectors and to interfere with their activities protesting the Line 3 pipeline.”
“Blocking access to the Namewag camp exemplifies a pattern of unlawful and discriminatory police conduct incentivized by an Enbridge-funded account from which the police can seek reimbursement for Line 3-related activities,” he continued.
“Police forces should protect the public interest, not private companies,” Simons added. “Cases like this highlight the dangers of allowing the police to act as a private security arm for pipeline companies.”