Since we sent the article below to press, the struggle against Line 3 has escalated, with dozens of activists attaching themselves to Enbridge’s drilling equipment and hundreds arrested. Meanwhile, after a pro-pipeline ruling from the Minnesota Court of Appeals, some activists ended their eight-day occupation of the site while DSA activists were tear-gassed at a parallel action in Minneapolis. Camp Migizi posted on Facebook that 30 had been illegally arrested on a public road. Revmira Beeby, quoted below, wrote to DL that all of DSA’s Minnesota and Wisconsin chapters are involved on the ground. The struggle continues. (Ed.)
Last fall, Tom Julstrom asked his local DSA chapter in Duluth, Minnesota, what DSA was doing about Indigenous activists who were getting arrested trying to stop a new pipeline carrying tar sands oil. “You mean Line 3? That’s in limbo,” chapter leaders said, noting ongoing court challenges. DSA’s position is clear, they said, citing resolutions by DSA Ecosocialists in 2018 and by Twin Cities DSA in 2019 opposing the pipeline. But that was before 2020 scrambled everything. This limbo meant that a major struggle against a top corporate polluter slated to add 193 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year (more than in all of Minnesota combined right now) was happening at their front door while most chapters were engaged in the social justice uprisings and pandemic responses. Since that moment, Julstrom and others from a half-dozen Minnesota chapters have been organizing for this summer, when drilling is scheduled to begin in some of Minnesota’s most delicate wild-rice fields.
Line 3, which would replace and enlarge an existing pipeline that runs from the Alberta tar sands to the Minnesota waters and the Mississippi River, was first proposed in 2015 by the Canada-and-Texas-based Enbridge Corporation. Indigenous communities have been fighting it ever since: HonorEarth.org, founded by environmental activist Winona LaDuke, assembled “a grand coalition” in support of the Anishinaabe- Ojibwe peoples, whose lands are most affected. The last permits for the pipeline were approved in December 2020 by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers, and Native activists started locking themselves onto Enbridge construction equipment. In early January 2021, “Camp Migizi” was established in Sawyer, near the worksite, on land bought by Fond du Lac activist Taysha Martineau. Since then, the site has hosted celebrity activists including LaDuke and Jane Fonda. The Water Protectors are calling for Joe Biden to shut down the pipeline as he did with the Keystone pipeline.
“I first heard about Line 3 when I was just out of high school,” Revmira Beeby of Cannon Valley DSA told Democratic Left. On a trip to Canada, before they joined DSA, they “met some Line 3 organizers,” who said that time was growing short. Beeby joined Northfield Against Line 3, which met with the Giniw Collective and Anticolonial Land Defense. Then, Beeby co-founded a Cannon Valley chapter of DSA, and was soon co-chair of its executive committee. Beeby knew that a statewide effort to support the Indigenous fight against Line 3 was crucial and that chapters outside of the Twin Cities had the bandwidth to make that happen.
Cannon Valley DSA signed on early to a Line 3 statement posted by the Twin Ports chapter. “We approached other Minnesota chapters in the hopes that a unified statewide DSA would bring greater national attention to the pipeline fight,” Julstrom said via email. “After every Minnesota chapter approved the statement, we kept those initial lines of communication open.” Eventually, a statewide DSA Line 3 Working Group formed, “the most active participants of which are the Twin Ports, Brainerd Lakes Area, Cannon Valley, and St. Cloud chapters.” Given the bevy of banks funding the project—Black Rock Investments, JPMorgan Chase, TD Bank, Citibank and Wells Fargo—DSA activists knew that fighting Line 3 is a strike at capitalism’s heart.
The group met every week to discuss ways to support the protests without undermining the Indigenous leadership. They decided to offer material support to Camp Migizi in person. They drove from Duluth and Brainerd Lakes, with a dozen people squeezed into eight cars loaded with water, food, paper supplies “and most of all, firewood,” Justrum said via text message. “One of our members [who couldn’t come] baked a whole bunch of banana bread,” he added.
These caravans happened in March and early April, just as Indigenous youth brought the struggle to Washington, D.C., to put pressure on Biden. In April, Representative Ilhan Omar co-authored a CNN.com essay with Anishinaabe writer Tara Houska entitled “The pipeline that President Biden needs to stop.” And Twin Cities DSA staged protests at Enbridge’s Minneapolis headquarters.
In April, working group members noticed that the special anti-protest units trained against pipeline protesters—a mix of state troopers and officers with the Department of National Resources and funded by Enbridge— were being used to confront protesters who gathered in Brooklyn Center after the police murder of Daunte Wright. “I think Line 3 has already demonstrated that some of the ways in which struggles for Indigenous sovereignty and struggles for racial justice overlap,” said Julstrom. “The same cops that have been training for years to brutalize water protectors fighting Line 3 were putting down protests in Brooklyn Center.”
To ramp up the scope of DSA activism, the working group organized dozens of teach-ins and Line 3 events across the state—especially the week of May Day—culminating with a statewide webinar on May 7.
The race against time is real. After a pause for “seasonal restrictions,” Enbridge set June 1 for the full resumption of work, including high-speed drilling across 227 lakes and rivers. “We will need hundreds, thousands of people taking direct action,” Julstrom told DL. “DSA can make a real difference if we mobilize people to come to Minnesota and put their bodies in front of that equipment.” He said that the movement can build on the lessons of previous pipeline protests: “Like Standing Rock, but more prepared.”
If they can’t come in person, Julstrom and Beeby emphasized, DSAers can organize divestment protests at local Chase banks. Can’t do direct action? Write to Biden, urging him to stop Line 3. Join other disinvestment campaigns, so your city or employer isn’t supporting this devastating project.
For ecosocialists, Beeby said, the Line 3 struggle is part of the fight against tar sands oil, which, along with fracking, forms the late stage of fossil-fuel devastation. “It’s so important to stop. Look what it’s done to Alberta,” where tar sands mining has torn gashes across miles of the province.
“This is an issue that impacts you!” Julstrom added. “If you live near or care about the Mississippi River, it’s your fight. If you care about Indigenous people’s rights, it’s your fight.”