Friday, March 22, 2019

Police in Minnesota are using private security firms to target anti-pipeline organizers

“It’s clear that Enbridge is doing everything they can to have a very highly skilled force of security and law enforcement at their fingertips to do what they can to stop any resistance to Line 3.”

Law enforcement officials in Minnesota having spent the last 18 months preparing for a standoff with anti-pipeline organizers that are protesting the building of Embridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline, according to new documents obtained by The Intercept.

The efforts of police in Minnesota echo those of law enforcement in North Dakota, when private security firms were hired to militarize the opposition against anti-pipeline protestors at Standing Rock. In fact, Minnesota officials have “repeatedly [turned] for guidance to the North Dakota officials responsible for the militarized response at Standing Rock in 2016.”

Police at Standing Rock, with the aid of private intelligence and security firms hired by the pipeline’s parent company, used sophisticated monitoring, including embedded informants and aerial surveillance, to spy on protesters and gather information. They also responded violently to standoffs with the water protectors, including using water cannons, rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tear gas, armored personnel carries, and sound cannons.

Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, which has yet to receive a green light, would pass through several Native American territories, specifically the Ojibwe bands in Northern Minnesota. According to Enbridge, a Canada-based energy company, the Line 3 project is its largest ever and will replace a cracked and corroded crude oil pipeline installed in the 1906s. The pipeline will space 1,031-miles, from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to a Wisconsin shipping hub.

The documents, obtained by The Intercept via freedom of information requests, “illustrate law enforcement’s anxiety that pipeline opponents could galvanize support on a scale similar to the Dakota Access pipeline struggle, which drew thousands of protesters to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in southern North Dakota.”

Local police reports mention two security firms, Raven Executive and Security Services and Securitas, keeping tabs on protesters and reporting their activities to law enforcement. Raven Executive and Security Service is “owned and operated by current and former law enforcement professionals” and has a history of utilizing its drones to inspect energy pipelines. Securitas is an “enormous, publicly traded corporation with operations in over 50 countries” and owns the nation’s oldest private security company, Pinkerton. Further:

Opposition research firms that market their services to energy companies have also singled out Line 3 as the next likely flashpoint of opposition to a U.S. pipeline project. Executives of the public relations firm Off the Record Strategies and the private intelligence firm Delve, which the National Sheriffs’ Association contracted in 2016 to dig up information on DAPL opponents, gave an overview of their work at a pipeline industry conference in 2017.

“It’s clear that Enbridge is doing everything they can to have a very highly skilled force of security and law enforcement at their fingertips to do what they can to stop any resistance to Line 3,” says tribal attorney Tara Houska, who is Ojibwe from the Couchiching First Nation and also took part in the struggle at Standing Rock. “And if anything, it seems like what they’re doing is much more coordinated than what we saw in North Dakota.”

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