Tribe asks Line 3 protesters to stand down after fake bomb forces evacuation

The Fond du Lac Band cut a deal that makes Line 3 beneficial to the tribe but "outside protesters" continue to demonstrate against the project anyway, disrupting life for many native people.

A protest on a Line 3 construction site in December. (Giniw Collective/Facebook)

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa asked “outside protesters” to “respect” its decision to embrace Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project after a potential bomb was found on the reservation.

Police called in a bomb squad and evacuated homes within a half-mile radius of a Line 3 construction site after someone left a suspicious device near the pipeline Friday.

“After careful examination, it was determined that the device was not an explosive agent,” the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement, noting that state and federal law allow for prosecution for using “replica devices to cause fear or panic.”

“We will push for the maximum charging and penalties for everyone involved in these types of crimes,” Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake said.

In a subsequent statement, the sheriff’s office said the suspicious device “threatened the residents of the Fond du Lac Reservation, northern Big Lake community and the Line 3 pipeline workers.”

In response, the Fond du Lac issued a statement Monday that said “pipeline protesters threw a potential explosive device onto a pipeline construction site on the Fond du Lac Reservation.”

“The Reservation Business Committee, as the governing body of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, recognizes that not everybody agrees with its decision to enter into a right-of-way agreement with Enbridge for 13.2 miles within the borders of Fond du Lac,” the band said via its website. However, the statement continues: “[The decision] was made through the Band’s sovereign authority. We insist that outside protesters respect that authority.”

Another statement on the band’s website offers resources for “support” for those who were “displaced or evacuated” as a result of the fake bomb and related police evacuation.

Authorities are looking for information about this Toyota, Virginia License Plate UEU9422, that is believed to be connected to Friday's incident. Anybody with knowledge about this vehicle should call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)
Authorities are looking for information about this Toyota, Virginia license plate UEU9422, that is believed to be connected to Friday’s incident. Anybody with knowledge about this vehicle should call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

The Fond du Lac likely directed its message to stand down toward a broad group of environmental activists who collectively call themselves “water-protectors.” This coalition believes that the pipeline project will harm the environment by supporting the fossil fuel industry, and that it violates the rights of natives who control the land through which pipe will be laid.

However, Fond du Lac leadership does not feel threatened by Line 3. Rather, they successfully negotiated a deal with Enbridge, the company responsible for the project’s construction, that will benefit the band, per MPR.

This has not stopped the protesters from erecting several “protest camps” along the route of Line 3, proximal to Fond du Lac land. These camps are used as staging areas for demonstrations that employ various physical measures to prevent the project from progressing.

Their efforts seem to be increasing in intensity as they have enjoyed a personal visit from Rep. Ilhan Omar, increased the frequency of demonstrations and advised their members that future actions may involve getting arrested.

The band has asked for the camps to disperse, and even blocked entry to one of them last week after the bomb incident, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

The Line 3 project will replace deteriorating 1960s oil transportation infrastructure with a safer, more efficient pipeline, according to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Construction of the line was originally required by the Obama administration and presently enjoys bipartisan support.