On the second day of ‘People vs. Fossil Fuels’ demonstrations in Washington, D.C., hundreds marched to the White House, again calling on President Biden to recognize the world is in a climate emergency and to halt approvals of new fossil fuel projects. More than 150 people were arrested for refusing to clear the sidewalk in front of the White House, just a day after similar arrests of 136 people. After the U.S. Park Police escorted the last protesters away, a second rally was held in front of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters. There, over a hundred environmental activists showed their ongoing resistance to the recently completed construction of Enbridge’s expanded Line 3 tar sands pipeline.
Pipeline opponents have been battling against the Line 3 project in northern Minnesota since it was first proposed in 2014. Enbridge, the project owner, described the pipeline as a replacement of an older, corroding pipe built in the 1960s, but opponents dismiss the company’s claim. They argue it is a new pipeline rather than a replacement, saying Line 3 is larger and has portions that traverse a different area than the older pipeline, including traditional Anishinaabe lands.
The new pipeline allows for nearly double the capacity of heavy crude, almost a million barrels per day, to pass from the Canadian tar sands fields in Hardisty, Alberta to the end point over a thousand miles away in Superior, Wisconsin.
Ojibwe tribes have been at the forefront of Line 3 opposition, along with other Indigenous and environmental groups. On October 12, Indigenous leaders and supporters delivered one million petitions to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters, asking the Biden administration to stop the project and conduct a full environmental review. Jamie Pinkham, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, came out with assistants and took the boxes with the petitions.
The event was hosted by Honor The Earth, an Indigenous-led environmental justice organization based in northern Minnesota, with support from Seventh Generation, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), and the People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition. And the petitions were collected by community and environmental justice groups, including Braided Justice Collective, Friends of the Earth, Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate,, and 350.org, among others.
During a press conference the group held a ceremony with Anishinaabe drummers in front of the building where they presented the Army Corps with the petitions.
Numerous speakers described damage that they say the Line 3 pipeline is already causing and that environmental regulators are ignoring. Demonstrators displayed photos as evidence of environmental damage to waterways along the pipeline construction route.
According to the organizers, “the pipeline will produce carbon emissions equivalent of 50 coal-powered plants and crossing more than 227 lakes and rivers, Line 3 threatens the drinking water of 18 million people and the health and wellness of many more.”
Two activists climbed poles in front of the Army Corps building. One took down the American flag and the U.S. Army Corps flag, replacing them with a Free Informed and Prior Consent flag that read “Consultation is not Consent.”
As DeSmog has previously reported: “Fossil fuel projects on Native lands often violate the principles of Free, Prior, and Informed consent, a concept that not only necessitates consultation with Indigenous peoples regarding projects on their territory, but requires their consent. That principle lies at the heart of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), a global resolution adopted by 144 nations in 2007.” The United States initially opposed the declaration, only reversing its stance years later.
Security guards for the Army Corps headquarters retreated inside. A few Indigenous pipeline opponents used bandanas and zip ties to lock the doors from the outside. After about 15 minutes, officers outside the buildings cut them open in order to escort someone into the building. The protest broke up without any arrests.
Over the course of the next three days, hundreds more climate activists are expected to bring the message to Biden’s doorstep that he must take more aggressive action against the climate crisis, and many demonstrators are expected to participate in additional acts of civil disobedience. The timing of the protests aims to highlight their message to the President before next month’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
Those arrested today were released without being fined. Tomorrow the action continues: activists will return to the White House in the morning, with a goal of making sure Biden hears them.