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Guest column: LaDuke wrong to blame Enbridge for violence, arrests

"Despite attempts by people like Winona LaDuke to try to confuse, mislead or misrepresent, reality is something that thankfully cannot be ignored," says Thief River Falls Mayor Brian Holmer.

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Emergency responders talk with a pipeline protester who, despite the dangers, entered a trench dug as part of the Line 3 Replacement Project. The protester succeeded in stalling construction work for a couple of hours before being arrested on Jan. 22, 2021.
Forum News Service file
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Reality is a very stubborn yet important thing.

Despite attempts by people like Winona LaDuke to try to confuse, mislead or misrepresent, reality is something that thankfully cannot be ignored. ("Canadian justice comes to Minnesota," LaDuke column.)

Her efforts via her recent column take this to a new level and deserve a response.

For months now, hundreds of Line 3 protesters who broke the law are facing the legal accountability for their actions. Yet Winona LaDuke wants us to place the blame elsewhere.

Instead of accepting responsibility for her actions and the actions of other violent protesters, she wants us to think the only reason so many people were arrested was because law enforcement was “incentivized” to do this.

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Brian Holmer, mayor, Thief River Falls, Minnesota
Contributed / Facebook

She ignores that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission required Enbridge to put money into an escrow fund. This happened because of PUC concerns about threats from Winona to bring violence and protests to Minnesota that she and others repeatedly made during the entire Line 3 process.

The PUC wanted to make sure local taxpayers would not have to be responsible to cover the costs for extra law enforcement because of protesters. After seeing what happened, it’s beyond clear that the PUC did the right thing.

Yet LaDuke claiming Enbridge “incentivized” law enforcement to arrest the thousands of violent Line 3 protesters ignores a pretty important fact. None of the arrests would have happened if Winona and the others she invited to Minnesota had not committed crimes.

We saw this firsthand. Winona and her supporters not only destroyed construction equipment, but they also repeatedly threatened employees at places such as Two Inlets — many who are Native American. It made it harder for people to keep working. Having trucks and other equipment damaged or destroyed created other challenges for Native American-owned companies to resolve.

The only people being incentivized to do anything were the thousands of people Honor the Earth and others invited to come to Minnesota to protest. Not only were they encouraged to come here, people with “duffle bags of cash” were ready to make sure they got bailed out after they were arrested, Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes told the Park Rapids Enterprise.

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The site near LaSalle Creek in Hubbard County is one of three places where crews installing the Enbridge-owned pipeline last year caused uncontrolled flows of groundwater.

While Winona and others organized protests that stretched our public safety and first responder resources to the limits, the one thing Enbridge did “incentivize” was our local economy!

The recent University of Minnesota Duluth impact report shows how much good happened because of Line 3. Billions of dollars were invested, thousands of jobs were created, and businesses and communities were lifted up at the end of the COVID economic challenges.

Every union worker who wanted to work on the project had the chance to be part of Line 3. Native American-owned companies got to work on a project that was closer to their homes, many tribal employees learned new skills, and many now have new careers.

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Winona and other Line 3 opponents continue to try to argue about the way law enforcement responded to months of violent protests. What they don’t want to discuss is that no one gets arrested if they did not break the law. If people had not damaged equipment, they would not be facing these consequences.

Minnesota is a better place because of the Line 3 Replacement project. We have replaced something important and old with something that is newer, stronger, and better. While other parts of our state struggled economically, Northern Minnesota had an amazing lifeline that supported communities and made it possible for many businesses to survive.

I wish this all could have happened without the violence and arrests, but to try to blame Enbridge or anyone else for this ignores reality.

Brian Holmer is mayor of Thief River Falls, Minnesota.

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