BURLINGTON – Speaking to a crowd of protesters gathered in Battery Park, environmental activist Julie Macuga described her recent trips to Minnesota, where she protested the ongoing construction of an oil pipeline.
The Burlington resident saw searchlights block the stars, feared the threat of chemical weapons, and heard the “incessant sound of a giant drill digging its way under the river,” she said. The crowd, gathered Friday night, was around 200 people, according to organizer Laura Simon.
“Why would we face all this violence? I’ll tell you, ”Macuga said. “If the Line 3 pipeline is built, it will leak into the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Indigenous-led resistance camps stand between the giant black snake and a network of rivers that divide across 32 states in two provinces. “
Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline company, is proposing to abandon its aging Line 3 pipeline for a new, larger capacity line that would carry 760,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day, according to MinnPost. Opponents – including those gathered at Battery Park – say oil from the tar sands is a big polluter of greenhouse gases, and they fear the pipeline may leak.
Protesters on Friday want to see global companies with local branches, such as JP Morgan Chase and TD Bank, stop investing in the project.
Why demonstrate in Burlington, some 1,200 miles away? Geoffrey Gardner, a member of the Upper Valley Affinity Group, which is organized around environmental and energy issues, said the situation was important in Vermont.
Enbridge indirectly owns a percentage of Green Mountain Power and Vermont Gas, he told VTDigger.
“Green Mountain Power and VGS are both very active in state energy policy,” he said. “Why here? These problems are not just unique to the places where they occur.
Line 3 begins in Alberta, Canada, and runs through a small section of North Dakota. If completed, the new pipeline would traverse 337 miles through northern Minnesota to Wisconsin, crisscrossing the upper Mississippi River. Enbridge began construction in December 2020.
Although the new pipeline would bypass the Leech Lake reserve, through which the existing line already passes, activists say the pipeline will still cross Anishinaabe territory. The US government has promised Indigenous peoples the ability to use land in much of northern Minnesota to hunt, fish, and grow food. An accident, like Enbridge’s million-gallon spill into the Kalamazoo River in 2010, would be catastrophic, speakers said on Friday.
Enbridge says the pipeline supports the people of Minnesota by creating jobs and boosting the local economy, and that it would be safer than the aging infrastructure already in place.
Macuga, who narrowly lost an offer this summer for a progressive Burlington City Council nomination, was one of many speakers to address the Battery Park crowd on Friday. Before the group got to the park, they walked from Town Hall to TD Bank and Chase Bank, both Line 3 investors.
The band, led by a marching band and chanting “Stop Line 3”, was large enough to fill a block of Church Street. The marchers caught the attention of other occupants of the pedestrian mall, many of whom recorded the commotion over the phone.
Twelve of the walkers commissioned a giant black serpent puppet that depicted a Native American prophecy of the animal destroying Earth.
When they reached the banks, the marchers, armed with chalk, wrote messages on the sidewalk such as “Honor the treaty, stop the pipeline” and promise to cancel the accounts. They handed over notes, written to the directors of the companies, inside the buildings.
Organizers said the day had added significance as it coincided with the global climate strike, in which people protested in thousands of towns and villages around the world.
At the park, six speakers recognized the future impacts of climate change and its disproportionate effect on marginalized populations.
Beverly Littlethunder and Charlie Mageso, the first to speak, are members of indigenous communities. Littlethunder is a Lakota Elder of Standing Rock Little Band and Mageso is a member of the Abenaki Nation.
“What I really mean is now is the time for a change,” Mageso said. “References to insanity do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. We are again in this period.
Leif Taranta also visited Minnesota recently. They touched on a theme also voiced by other speakers, namely that the protest was also a critique of current power structures at a broad level. Police brutality took place on the front lines of the protest, they said. Taranta also occupied Battery Park in the summer of 2020 to take a stand against cases of local police brutality, and they connected the issues.
“This is all really scary,” they said. “It’s really scary to face riot cops. It’s really scary to sit outside of a prison wondering what happens to your friends inside. It is really scary to think of chemical weapons, and even to see drill rigs crossing the earth. But the thing that scares me more than that, for me, is to do nothing at all.
Another speaker, Ashley LaPorte, said she does not see herself as a climate activist, but rather a champion of racial justice.
“What I want everyone to understand is that at the grassroots level fighting the climate crisis and fighting Line 3 is a fight for fairness and liberation,” she said.
This fight should not be framed in terms of the future, she said.
“Today is when the food and water sources of our native brothers and sisters are destroyed. Today is when black residents of cities like Detroit and Pittsburgh are dying from air pollution in their neighborhoods, ”she said.
In Vermont, she referred to the impacts of the upcoming Champlain Parkway, proposed to link Interstate 89 and Main Street to Burlington, which would “tear apart the Maple and King Street neighborhood here in Burlington.” The project, which an environmental impact statement recently said would have “minimal impacts” on minority populations, is an example of environmental racism, she said.
Bill McKibben, a renowned climate activist and author who founded 350.org, was the evening’s final speaker. He, too, has visited Minnesota as part of the ongoing protests and called the area “unbelievably beautiful.”
The streams reminded him of Vermont. The pipeline crosses these rivers 46 times before leaving Minnesota, McKibben said.
He said Friday’s event reminded him of the 2006 Vermont Climate March, in which activists marched for five days along the western edge of the state before a thousand people walked away. gathered at Battery Park. At the time, it was considered one of the largest climate-focused gatherings to take place in the United States.
The victories of climate activists include shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline, McKibben said.
“If we couldn’t build Keystone because it was going to hurt the climate, why the hell are we building Line 3?” ” he said.
McKibben called the fight against climate change “the fight of our lives.”
“We don’t know how this story ends,” he said. “All we know is that in order to have any chance of this ending in any way, we all have to do what we can.”
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