Victory! Court Rules MN Sheriff’s Blockade of Line 3 Water Protector Camp Was Illegal and Bars Ongoing Efforts to Obstruct Access+

cross-posted from Center for Protest Law and Litigation

Today, a Minnesota court issued a ruling protecting an Indigenous-led camp of Line 3 opponents from Hubbard County’s unlawful blockades and targeted harassment. This victory on the part of steadfast frontline climate justice activists is part of the crucial legal fight-back against oppressive police tactics as they place their bodies on the line to defend the planet.

The ruling comes after months of litigation on behalf of Indigenous water protectors, including Tara Houska and Winona LaDuke, and a successful temporary restraining order against Hubbard County, Sheriff Cory Aukes, and the local land commissioner in northern Minnesota for unlawfully blocking access to Giniw Collective’s Line 3 Camp Namewag in 2021.

The Center for Protest Law and Litigation, EarthRights International, and local counsel Jason Steck represent the plaintiffs.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, constitutional rights lawyer and Director of the Center for Protest Law & Litigation at the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund stated:

“Today David beat Goliath in a legal victory for people protecting the climate from rapacious corporate destruction. The outrageous blockade and repression of an Indigenous-led water protector camp was 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.”

“Today’s decision finds that the paramilitarized blockade was illegal and orders the Sheriff and Hubbard County to desist from any ongoing effort to obstruct access. This has been a hard-fought case as Hubbard County and its Sheriff have perpetuated the history of efforts to deprive Native people of access to land. Today’s victory sends a message to the next police force that might consider similar tactics that activists will not back down and will fight to assert their rights.”

Plaintiff Tara Houska, Founder of the Giniw Collective, stated:

“15 months ago, I was woken up at 6am and walked down my driveway to a grinning sheriff holding a notice to vacate my years-long home. That day turned into 50 squad cars on a dirt road and a riot line blocking my driveway. 12 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,” Houska continued. “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.”

Plaintiff Winona LaDuke, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Honor the Earth, stated:

“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. 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.”

Marco Simons, General Counsel of EarthRights, stated: 

“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.

“Police forces should protect the public interest, not private companies. Cases like this highlight the dangers of allowing the police to act as a private security arm for pipeline companies.”

Read the opinion here. 

BACKGROUND

The Hubbard County Sheriff unlawfully blockaded access to a camp serving as a convergence space and home for Indigenous-led organizing, decolonization and treaty rights trainings, and religious activities by water protectors seeking to defend the untouched wetlands and the treaty territory of Anishinaabe peoples. Activists attempting to access the property were harassed by Hubbard County police, issued unlawful citations for driving upon the property’s driveway, and threatened with arrest for coming to and from the camp.

The Sheriffs’ departments in the region received funds from the Enbridge pipeline corporation for their time spent acting against the pipeline’s opponents through a “Public Safety Escrow Fund.” Enbridge paid more than $8 million to “reimburse” law enforcement, effectively privatizing Minnesota’s public police forces in service to efforts to repress opposition to the pipeline.

Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline runs through hundreds of miles of Northern Minnesota land, including the lands of the Anishinaabe people and the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Enbridge is already responsible for the largest inland oil spill in the United States.

THE PLAINTIFFS

Tara Houska is an environmental and Indigenous rights attorney and advocate, land defender, founder of the Giniw Collective and a leader of the efforts to  stop Line 3. She is a citizen of Couchiching First Nation.

Winona LaDuke is a renowned activist working on issues of sustainable development, renewable energy, and food systems. She is the co-founder and executive  director of Honor the Earth. She lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota, and is a member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg.

NorCal: Urgent Call for Statewide Support for Threatened Coastal Forests & Tribal Sovereignty

cross-posted from Save Jackson Forest

Urgent Call for Statewide Support for Threatened Coastal Forests & Tribal Sovereignty

Please join The Coalition to Save Jackson at a  “30×30” Kick Off Rally on September 28th, 2022! The rally begins at 11 am, outside of the California Natural Resources Agency’s 30×30 Kick Off Event at 715 P St, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Our Coalition is supporting the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians as they negotiate co-management of the Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF) in their Pomo homelands. Establishing co-management and ending commercial logging in Jackson, the largest state-owned forest, are necessary if California is to enact the goals of reconciliation with Tribal people and reach its 30×30 goal of preserving lands to slow climate change. Governor Newsom established the 30×30 goal of protecting 30% of the state’s lands and waters by 2030. Scientists have advocated a similar global goal, in the face of accelerating climate change and declines in global biodiversity.

Supporting this campaign has statewide impacts because the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians is negotiating with the State based on Governor Newsom’s little-publicized directive to state agencies to co-manage lands with the Tribes of California. What happens in Pomo Homelands can affect Tribal co-management in all of California. Please join us!

Tribal Chairman Michael Hunter said “For co-management to succeed, it must be a government to government relationship that creates equal decision making powers. I worry that the State does not understand the importance of the words they are using. We must ensure that co-management creates an equal relationship between the State and the Tribes with equal decision making authority.” At the rally we are going to amplify Tribal Elder Priscilla Hunter’s call for “No More Broken Promises” because, after halting logging, road building, and pesticide operations for seven months during negotiations with the Tribe, CalFire and CNRA are attempting to resume these operations before negotiations with the Tribe are complete.

The Tribe and Coalition protest that the State is desecrating Pomo and Coast Yuki Sacred Sites and cultural resources with their logging operations in JDSF. Furthermore, the State is squandering one of its best tools for fighting climate change by logging mature coast redwoods. “Redwood forests have amazing climate mitigation potential and management needs to maximize that potential,” said Sara Rose, a youth activist with Mendocino County Youth for Climate and member of the Coalition. “My generation will have to live with what the planet becomes if we don’t save it. We have to face the reality of climate change.”

Please join us in Sacramento, please share this call for support, and please send us your organization’s  logo if you support the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians and the Coalition to Save Jackson in this campaign. If your organization can write a letter supporting our campaign, thank you. Please click here to sign a petition to shame CAL FIRE’s deception and protest logging in Jackson Demonstration State Forest! For more on this campaign read this background info, check out Savejackson.org, follow @savejacksoncoalition on Instagram, and like Coalition to Save Jackson The People’s Forest on Facebook!

Logos, questions and RSVPs can be emailed to Showing Up for Racial Justice Mendo Coast chapter, a member of the Coalition to Save Jackson: surjmendocoast@gmail.com

You can register for the State’s 30×30 event for free here if you would like to go inside the event and make your presence known.  Our rally will be outside the event.

 

Oregon:Community Members Stop Post-Fire Logging Operations in Protest on Hwy. 126

photo via Cascadia Forest Defenders

For Immediate Release

Contacts:

Clover, Community Member, Cascadia Forest Defenders, 541-357-6531 cascadiaforestdefenders@protonmail.com

In midst of state-wide controversy around grievous mismanagement of hazard tree removal, community members put their bodies in the way to halt operation.

MCKENZIE BRIDGE, OR – Monday morning, community members occupied log decks along Highway 126, stopping active post-fire logging operations for an hour. The action comes amidst growing controversy over the Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) mismanagement of the hazard tree removal.

For months now, concerns have been mounting about ODOT falsely marking and over-logging healthy, living trees and standing dead trees that pose no public risk along the scenic route and across the state. Recently, during a Senate hearing those fears were confirmed by expert whistleblowers (source link). However, the excessive cutting has not been stopped, despite calls from prominent state Senators. Within the fire boundary along Highway 126, piles of timber including old growth can be seen, directly next to living trees marked with blue paint to be logged.

Troubled by the scene, four community members entered the site where a helicopter was yarding logs hoping to halt the work, in an act of nonviolent direct action. Two of them got on the already decked logs, while one person put themself in the mouth of the log loader. Waving at the helicopter that was actively moving a log, they attempted to catch the attention of the pilot in order to safely stop the yarding process. The helicopter stopped yarding and hovered, empty, for a period of time. However, supervisor Joel Zeni from Suulutaaq allowed the helicopter to continue working on the same site.

At this point, the loggers were unable to continue work. In response to the work pausing, employees from Mason, Bruce & Girard [MBG] told the community members that their actions caused thousands of dollars in profits lost for the logging corporation.

As two community members continued to occupy the log decks, two more followed to where the helicopter was then working. Despite this, Joel Zeni from Suulutaaq, Inc allowed the helicopter to continue yarding logs on the occupied worksite.

Clover, a community member, said:

“By labeling post-fire logging as ‘hazard tree removal,’ ODOT contractors are using the fires from last summer as an excuse to make record profits under the guise of community safety and at the expense of taxpayers. Now is the time for all of us to take a role in protecting what’s left by stopping this irresponsible and destructive logging.”

Jesse, a community member, said:

“We have nothing against the individual workers doing their jobs; we want ODOT, MBG and Suulutaaq, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to stop exploiting this disaster by ending all post-fire logging. We urge others to join us.”

Lane County sheriffs and state patrol were called to the scene. Once work had been stopped for an hour and the demands were made clear, the community members left the site peacefully.

###

Why 2021 needs more direct action

BOSTON, MA: June 3, 2020: Thousands take part in a Black Lives Matter march and rally on the Boston Common in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

cross-posted from Medium

by Scott Parkin

Back in the first week of June, 2020, soon after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin, I found myself once again in the streets marching in the streets of Oakland, CA and taking action for black lives. I’d been here many times before after the murders of Michael Brown, Philandro Castile and Alton Sterling. Beyond that, I’ve been organized and partaken in campaigns, direct actions and mass protests on a myriad of issues from the war in Iraq to knocking Wall Street banks for their financing of fossil fuels to the Indigenous uprising around Standing Rock for decades.

But that night felt different. The crowd has a ferocious energy. It trashed corporate banks and retail outlets. It tossed back teargas canisters launched by the Oakland police. It stood its ground as the police shot flashbangs. We established a temporary “cop free” zone at 14th and Broadway. When I returned home that night, I saw social media reports coming in from all over the country with similar images. I realized the ferocity was not unique to the Bay Area. A full scale uprising had erupted against various versions of the state — the police state, the corporate state and the federal state, particularly the malignant policies of the Trump Administration. Continue reading