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Woman arrested during pipeline protest at Minnesota Enbridge facility

The protesters tied three large poles together to form a tripod structure. One protester then suspended herself from the top of it, hanging above the ground.

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Protesters blocked an Enbridge facility in Clearbrook on Monday morning for several hours. Submitted photo.
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CLEARBROOK, Minn. -- An environmental protest on Monday at the Enbridge Energy terminal in Clearbrook resulted in one arrest before the demonstration broke up.

Sara-Beth Anderson, 21 of Minneapolis, was arrested on the charge of trespassing on a critical public service facility. The protesters tied three large poles together to form a tripod structure. Anderson then suspended herself from the top of it, hanging above the ground.

Clearwater County Sheriff Darin Halverson said they first received word of the protest around 7:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 25. He said it continued until approximately noon. A press release from Enbridge indicated although the demonstration delayed some employees from arriving to work, “the terminal continued to safely operate without interruption.”

Anderson released a statement in a press release prior to her arrest, explaining her reasons for protesting in front of the terminal.

“I am a diver and love the ocean with all of my heart. The destruction of the sacred is happening because of these terrible decisions to keep extracting, to keep harming the earth despite what climate science has told the world’s leaders,” her statement said in part.

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Although Anderson eventually lowered herself down to the ground, it was not before law enforcement called in assistance from the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office to help remove her, Halverson said.

Tara Houska, a member of the environmental organization Giniw, was one of the people at the protest. Houska said Anderson lowered herself when officials began cutting through the poles of the tripod. Houska said although there was an ambulance on scene, Anderson likely could have been injured from the fall.

“It was a very tense moment… It was incredibly dangerous,” Houska said of the officials' decision to cut through the poles. “That was the reason she lowered herself; she felt unsafe.”

Other than their concern over Anderson potentially falling, Houska said the communication between the protesters and law enforcement was largely civil.

Halverson, however, said the situation was not as dangerous as it was made out to be. He said they intended to cut the poles down a little at a time to gradually bring Anderson to the ground. He said the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office has trained in the procedure before. Halverson said in that procedure, they cut less than a foot off the poles at a time and have people around the poles to hold them and provide support.

"It's not just like cutting the thing, and the whole thing's going to collapse," Halverson said. "They (the protesters) put her at more danger because those poles they used were pretty rotten at the top. So with her even hanging up there, she could have fallen."

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Houska said there were three counter-protesters at the scene with signs supporting Enbridge's proposed Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project, which would come to the Clearbrook facility on its way to Wisconsin. Houska said they were “hurling some pretty serious insults” at the protesters.

Several politicians released statements on Monday critical of the demonstration. District 2 Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, and District 2A Rep. Matt Grossell, R-Clearbrook, indicated the protest was more about financial gain than environmental activism.

“These protestors claim to be water protectors, but their actions show that they are radical activists more focused on trying to raise money than anything else,” Utke said in the statement.

Clearbrook is about 40 miles northwest of Bemidji.

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