BACKUS, Minn. -- Protesters gathered Monday, Dec. 28, outside of Backus at a pipe storage yard on County Road 113 in protest of Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline replacement project.
Protesters blocked access to the yard with a tall wooden tripod with a person dangling from a harness near the top.
Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch confirmed the occupant was taken into custody, but didn't immediately have many details to add regarding identity of the person or the charges the person might face, though trespassing may be likely.
The group was protesting at the entrance to one of Enbridge Energy's Backus-based staging locations, this one being a location where pipes are stored. This is one of many protests by the group identifying themselves as "water protectors" at various sites, including drilling sites and forested lands.
In the past several months, there have been occasional protests outside the work yard near Backus on Highway 87. Other protests have occurred in Aitkin County near the Mississippi River, where 22 protesters were arrested Dec. 14. Protests have also occurred at Enbridge Energy offices, including in Park Rapids.
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A news release from an associated group identified the person atop the tripod in Monday's protest as Emma Harrison and quoted her, saying, "I’m part of the Line 3 resistance movement because this pipeline embodies everything I believe is wrong with the world. Profits for a few are being privileged over the well-being of all communities near and far, present and future. Stopping Line 3 is a tangible way to fight for the world I want to live in.”
Winona LaDuke from the organization Honor the Earth was present at Monday's event.
"We're sitting here in some of the most beautiful territory and people have come from all over the state," LaDuke said. "A lot of people are from right around here who don't want to see this oil pipeline come through because we got enough groundwater contamination from Offutts."
LaDuke was referring to R.D. Offutt Co., which owns potato farms to the west. She commended Harrison.
"This beautiful young woman is up there and (I'm) really grateful for the courage of water protectors and hope that politicians will become water protectors one day, too," she said.
The group shouted chants during the protest, most declaring they would stop the pipeline, though one shorter chant used more obscene language. A tree service company was called to provide machinery to bring Harrison down from the tripod, at which time she told the sheriff she required a medic on scene for her safety.
Deputies said North Memorial Health Ambulance was nearby. Chants followed, saying, "Let the medic in." Backus First Responders were in an unmarked truck near the protest.
Harrison had her arms around one leg of the tripod with both hands in what appeared to be an elbow from a piece of large square tubing, presumably to ensure she could not be easily disentangled from the legs of the tripod. She was moved into the bucket of the machine brought by the tree service and slowly lowered almost to the ground. The legs of the tripod were then cut so they could lift the leg out of her grip and walk her to a waiting sheriff's department truck.
"We're still dealing with the situation," Burch said. "We know people have a right to protest, but please do it peacefully and legally."
Burch said they did take one person into custody but they did not have an ID or any confirmation on charges that person might face. He confirmed the group was respectful and cooperative. On site, the group responded to deputies directing them out of the way of vehicles passing on the road, as well as the tree service machine brought in to remove Harrison.
Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.