DULUTH The unacceptable criminal acts of extremists to stop — not just peacefully protest — the Line 3 Replacement Project continued this week in northern Minnesota, even ramping up and escalating for what now threatens to be a long and heated summer ahead.

By the hundreds — many distastefully recruited from out of state and urged to come here for the sole purpose of causing trouble — they blocked public roads and highways that are supposed to be there for everyone’s use, they dangerously chained and locked themselves to heavy equipment, and they even more dangerously barricaded themselves in front of an Enbridge pump station that they then proceeded to damage. A reported 44 workers were forced to evacuate their job site at the pump station, including 10 employees from a Native-owned contractor in White Earth.

The agitators got what they wanted: Headline-grabbing mass arrests made by peace officers left unavailable for actual, non-staged emergencies in their home communities. Well-funded protest organizers had already promised their recruits legal representation. They even trained them ahead of this week’s actions to encourage arrests and maximum mass mayhem.

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Peaceful protests from a place of sincere and genuine concern? That may be the image promoted by the propaganda-using protest organizers. But, for the most part, it’s not what this is. This is a well-organized assault on our region by extreme interests skilled at passing themselves off as hapless victims.

Legitimate pipeline protesters have every right to peacefully and lawfully demonstrate, of course, and to express their distaste for the result of a years-long environmental review and regulatory process, as legitimate as was that process and its result. But demonstrations increasingly and frighteningly are becoming less lawful and peaceful.

That’s even though the replacement of Line 3 is considered the most thoroughly scrutinized and studied-for-safety project of its kind in Minnesota state history. Following an exhaustive public-review process, and only after careful consideration, the final federal and state permits for the project were granted in December. Construction started soon afterward with more than 5,000 Minnesotans, Minnesota tribal members, and out-of-town workers expected to be employed.

With those workers, especially out-of-towners, dropping big bucks on restaurant meals, hotel rooms, convenience-store snacks, and more, the project is an economic boon for Minnesota, especially the northern third of the state, after local budgets, coffers, and cash registers were decimated this past year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

By replacing an aging pipeline with a state-of-the-art new one that's less likely to fail, the project also is a victory for Minnesota's environment.

Protesters demonstrate at a makeshift bridge designed for heavy construction equipment at the headwaters of the Mississippi River while voicing their concerns over the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline on Monday, June 7, 2021, as part of the Treaty People Gathering. (Michael Achterling / Tribune)
Protesters demonstrate at a makeshift bridge designed for heavy construction equipment at the headwaters of the Mississippi River while voicing their concerns over the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline on Monday, June 7, 2021, as part of the Treaty People Gathering. (Michael Achterling / Tribune)

Not that protest organizers want to hear any of that. Especially not while bragging on social media about stopping work, getting in the faces of law enforcement, and driving up costs for contractors and others.

The reality is there is widespread support for what, really, is a simple infrastructure-improvement project. That support includes the Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee’s decision to enter into a right-of-way agreement with Enbridge for 13.2 miles within the borders of Fond du Lac. In addition, in February, when a suspicious package was thrown from a vehicle at a protest site west of Cloquet and a bomb squad responsibly was called in, members of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa bravely and sternly stood up to the protesters and told them they needed to go home.

"It's getting dangerous out here," a counter-protester said, according to News Tribune coverage.

This week it got even more dangerous. Frighteningly dangerous. Rather than respecting those of us who live here and our wishes for peace, the “protesters” callously and selfishly called in reinforcements, turning our region into their political battleground.

Our Northland is left to pray for our law enforcement, our officers forced “into a quandary,” as Forum Communications commentator Rob Port wrote over the weekend: “forced to choose between allowing activists to trespass and harass and disrupt with impunity or make mass arrests that will almost certainly be portrayed negatively.”

Our Northland is left to pray for peace — before there really is a bomb, unlike February’s frightening false alarm. And before somebody needlessly gets hurt.

This other view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Duluth News Tribune.