BACKUS, Minn. -- Four people were arrested Thursday, Jan. 14, after two people chained themselves together inside a pipeline segment to protest Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline replacement project near Backus in north-central Minnesota.
It was one of many protests in the past several months by a group who identify themselves as "water protectors" at various sites, including drilling sites and forested lands. Thursday’s protest was in McKinley Township off Highway 64 about 10 miles west of Backus.
In the past several months, there have been occasional protests outside the work yard near Backus on Highway 87. Other protests have occurred in Aitkin County, where 22 protesters were arrested Dec. 14 and another eight were arrested Jan. 9.
Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch said four people were arrested in Thursday’s protest, including the two people who chained themselves together in the pipeline. The two people, plus two others who refused to leave the area, were arrested for obstructing the legal process and trespassing.
“We've had some protests and, for the most part, it has been peaceful, they're respectful, they cooperate when asked, or told what to do,” Burch said. “We’ve had activity throughout the pipeline, nothing major. We've dealt with a few incidences of trespassing complaints on Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline.”
The “water protectors” sent out a news release about Thursday’s incident, stating as Enbridge is working 24 hours per day at several worksites, there is a pending injunction to halt work while tribally led lawsuits are heard and have yet to be decided.
According to several cultural site maps, numerous sacred and significant sites lie in the path of the Line 3 project.
Burch said people have the right to protest and for the most part those protesting the pipeline have been respectful. Burch said protesters need to understand the law and follow the rules. When protesters don’t follow the laws, the sheriff’s office is called to respond and this takes officers away from other 911 emergencies.