Demands Immediate Cessation of Denial of Access to Public Park and Campaign of Threats, Harassment and Retaliation; Challenges Conflict of Interest of Enbridge Corp. Funding Public Law Enforcement
The Center for Protest Law and Litigation is demanding that police and government officials at the site of the Line 3 pipeline expansion in Aitkin County, MN and the City of Palisade immediately cease efforts to obstruct and stop an event scheduled for Saturday, February 6 on local public parkland consisting of peaceful free speech, educational and religious activities intended to provide information to the public about just transitions for a sustainable future and the extreme dangers the pipeline poses to the community.
Local officials have illegally and unconstitutionally sought to “deny” access to the public park and have directly threatened and retaliated against the organizers of the event, who include Winona LaDuke, an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabe; Tania Aubid, a resident of Aitkin County, and a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe; Gaylene Spolarich, a resident of Palisade, and a member of Turtle Mountain Band as well as former City Clerk for Palisade; and Shania Matteson, a non-Indigenous resident of Palisade.
The letter to the Aitkin County’s Sheriff and Land Commissioner, and Palisade’s Mayor and City Clerk, from CPLL’s director, constitutional rights lawyer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, states: “Basic First Amendment rights are being deprived at the whim and direction of entities and officials, armed with the power of the state, serving essentially as private security of a private corporation [Enbridge] whose profit interests lie in suppressing and demonizing opposition to their activities – including suppressing educational events that can impact the public’s understanding of their dangerous pipeline.”
Winona LaDuke stated: “More and more people are waking up to the centuries of violence and repression that native people have endured at the hands of corporations and the state. As more people stand with us for the water and our treaty rights, we see law enforcement working hand-in-hand with corporations to suppress that dissent and malign our movements.”
Gaylene Spolarich stated: “As former City Clerk of Palisade, I was appalled to see local government using their discretionary power to deny people an opportunity to gather, to learn, and to build community. We should be encouraging public engagement with issues that so directly impact our lives.”
Shanai Matteson stated: “People in rural communities like Palisade have been lied to, intimidated, and intentionally divided for far too long. We all need water and a healthy environment. What might seem like a small issue – local officials illegally denying a park permit – is part of a much bigger system that violates treaty rights and makes destructive projects like Line 3 possible.”
Tania Aubid stated: “This is the 1855 treaty territory, and treaties are the supreme law of the land. We gather here to protect the water and to affirm our rights and responsibilities as Anishinaabe people.”
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard stated: “The constitutional rights violations here involve practices squarely ruled illegal by the Supreme Court when similarly employed by the racist sheriffs and commissioners of the deep south to suppress organizing by the civil rights movement more than half a century ago. These acts will not be tolerated and in the absence of cessation, we will take appropriate legal recourse.”