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Defending Water Protectors Against Illegal Line 3 Blockade

Permanent Injunction Issued Against Sheriff

Background

The Center for Protest Law & Litigation, working with our partners at illegal, International, won a major victory on behalf of Line 3 Indigenous-led water protectors, obtaining a court ruling that a MN Sheriff’s blockade of their camp was illegal, and which barred any ongoing efforts to obstruct access. 

This victory on the part of steadfast frontline climate justice activists is part of the crucial legal fight-back against oppressive police tactics as they place their bodies on the line to defend the planet. 

The ruling came after months of litigation on behalf of Indigenous water protectors, including Tara Houska and Winona LaDuke, and a successful temporary restraining order against Hubbard County, Sheriff Cory Aukes, and the local land commissioner in northern Minnesota for unlawfully blocking access to Giniw Collective’s Line 3 Camp Namewag in 2021.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, constitutional rights lawyer and Director of the Center for Protest Law & Litigation at the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund stated at the time: “David beat Goliath in a legal victory for people protecting the climate from rapacious corporate destruction. The outrageous blockade and repression of an Indigenous-led water protector camp was fueled by massive sums of money flowing from the Enbridge corporation to the Sheriff’s department as it acted against water protectors challenging Enbridge’s destruction of Native lands.” 

“This decision finds that the paramilitarized blockade was illegal and orders the Sheriff and Hubbard County to desist from any ongoing effort to obstruct access. This has been a hard-fought case as Hubbard County and its Sheriff have perpetuated the history of efforts to deprive Native people of access to land. This victory sends a message to the next police force that might consider similar tactics that activists will not back down and will fight to assert their rights.” 

Plaintiff Tara Houska, Founder of the Giniw Collective, stated, “15 months ago, I was woken up at 6am and walked down my driveway to a grinning sheriff holding a notice to vacate my years-long home. That day turned into 50 squad cars on a dirt road and a riot line blocking my driveway. 12 people, guests from all over who came to protect the rivers and wild rice from Line 3 tar sands, were arrested and thrown into the dirt.

“This ruling is a testament to the lengths Hubbard County was willing to go to criminalize and harass Native women, land defenders, and anyone associated with us — spending unknown amounts of taxpayer dollars and countless hours trying to convince the court that the driveway to Namewag camp wasn’t a driveway,” Houska continued. “It’s also a testament to steadfast commitment to resisting oppression. This is a piece in the long game and we aren’t afraid. We haven’t forgotten the harms to us and the harms to the earth. Onward.”

Plaintiff Winona LaDuke, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Honor the Earth, stated, “We are grateful to Judge Austad for recognizing how Hubbard County exceeded its authority and violated our rights. This ruling shows that Hubbard County cannot repress Native people for the benefit of Enbridge by circumventing the law. This is also an important victory for all people of the North reinforcing that a repressive police force should not be able to stop you from accessing your land upon which you hunt or live.”

Marco Simons, General Counsel of EarthRights, stated, “The court’s ruling is a major rebuke to police efforts to unlawfully target water protectors and to interfere with their activities protesting the Line 3 pipeline. Blocking access to the Namewag camp exemplifies a pattern of unlawful and discriminatory police conduct incentivized by an Enbridge-funded account from which the police can seek reimbursement for Line 3-related activities.

“Police forces should protect the public interest, not private companies. Cases like this highlight the dangers of allowing the police to act as a private security arm for pipeline companies.”


Houska et al. v. County of Hubbard et al., Minnesota District Court, County of Hubbard, Ninth Judicial District | Court File No. 29-CV-21-1226

Line 3 Blockade – First Amended Complaint 2021

Line 3 Blockade – Order on Motion for Summary Judgment 2022

Exposing the Privatization of Policing: The Center for Protest Law & Litigation has obtained documents through our ongoing investigation showing that Jonathan Frieden, the lead prosecutor in Hubbard County, Minnesota sought Enbridge pipeline corporation’s money to fund his prosecutions.

PCJF News


Emergency Lawsuit Filed by Indigenous Water Protectors Against MN Sheriff to Stop Police Blockade of Camp at Line 3

Victory! Court Rules MN Sheriff’s Blockade of Line 3 Water Protector Camp Was Illegal and Bars Ongoing Efforts to Obstruct Access

UPDATE: Victory for Line 3 Water Protectors! Court issues restraining order against Hubbard County & Sheriff to end police blockade of Line 3 camp

Letter to Minnesota Officials from CPLL and PCJF

Press Coverage


Truthout – Line 3 Pipeline Water Protectors Head to Trial on Trumped-Up Felony Charges