Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office arrests 22 pipeline protesters

Of those arrested, four were from northern Minnesota, 13 were from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, and five were from out of state. None were from Aitkin County.

Aitkin County sheriff's deputies drive near a tree occupied by activist Liam Delmain while construction of the Line 3 oil pipeline continues underneath them near Palisade last week. (Evan Frost / MPR News)

JACOBSON — Demonstrations by those opposed to the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline project led to the arrests of 22 people this week in Aitkin County.

A Friday, Dec. 18, news release from the Northern Lights Task Force detailed the Monday events that led to the arrests along the Line 3 right of way on the 59000 block of Great River Road in the community of Jacobson.

Numerous people went into an area posted as “No Trespassing” in accordance with state law, the release stated. Along with the protesters on the ground, there was also a man who had been staying in a tree platform since Dec. 4. The Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office was working with a group of his supporters to ensure the safety of the man in the tree and “even made sure that necessities were delivered to him,” according to the release.

On Monday morning, the sheriff’s office was on the scene and received a report that the Enbridge-leased right of way was blocked by a cable. Upon arrival, Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida observed that someone fastened a rope to block the right of way. Another line was connected to that line and secured above the tree occupant’s platform, helping support the platform and individual, the task force reported.


Posted by Stop Line 3 on Thursday, December 17, 2020


“The situation required a response to protect the person’s life as one mistake could have caused the apparatus, and individual in the tree, to fall 30 feet to the frozen ground,” Guida stated in the release.

After several unsuccessful attempts to convince the person to come down on his own, a bucket truck was brought in to bring the man down safely.

The release stated approximately 50 protesters remained blocking the right of way. They were asked to leave and then ordered to leave, but they refused, according to officials. Dispersal orders were given and most of the people left the area. After multiple additional dispersal orders were given, officers walked around the group and secured a perimeter.

As Guida rode up in the bucket to the elevated platform, several people rushed from the woods nearby and attempted to shut the truck’s operation down. Three were immediately arrested. One carried a sleeping dragon device, a device that can be used to secure a person to an object. These devices are often used by protesters in an attempt to obstruct law enforcement. Another group encroached the line and was again told to leave. When they refused to do so, they were arrested, the release stated.

The tree occupant advised he was ready to come down and cooperated fully with law enforcement. The temperature at that time was 6 degrees below zero.

In total, 22 people were arrested and booked into the Aitkin County Jail on probable cause for trespassing and unlawful assembly. One individual was booked on probable cause for obstructing the legal process with force and fourth-degree assault. Of those arrested, four were from northern Minnesota, 13 were from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, and five were from out of state. None were from Aitkin County.

On Tuesday, all of the detained people except one were issued tab charge citations and were released from custody with the promise to appear in court. On Wednesday, the final arrested party was issued a gross misdemeanor formal complaint and released on conditions, to include not returning to pipeline construction zones.

The Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office is working in conjunction with other sheriff’s offices and state and tribal assets during the construction of this pipeline as part of the Northern Lights Task Force.

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