On the Line
What Happened on July 1st
On the Line
Episode 1: What Happened On July 1
By Audrey Carleton
Voices (in order of appearance)
Dawn Goodwin, Interviewee, Leader of Camp Manoomin water protector camp in Minnesota
Audrey Carleton (Host)
Julie Richards (“Mama Julz,” “Julz”), Interviewee, Leader of the Mothers Against Meth Alliance, Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota
Ginger Cassady, Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network
Laurel Sutherlin, Communications Director for the Rainforest Action Network
Jenna Ruddock, Senior Researcher at the Washington College of Law
Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org
[Car sounds, movement whirr in background]
Dawn Goodwin 00:02
So, right up ahead of us is their main terminal. It doesn’t look like too much from the road. But wait till you see. Wait till you get in there. And so, this is the area and then we’ll bring you right by the calcareous fen area.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 00:17
I’m driving. About eight miles an hour in northern Minnesota. I’m with Dawn Goodwin. We’re in what’s called an oil terminal. It’s owned by Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline company.
Dawn Goodwin 00:29
Boy, they’re busy today. So, you want to just go slow through here, or you’ll miss it. So, this is the aquifer breach right up here. See where that thing they built? That’s new. They put that in there. I don’t know if it’s … I think it’s right over where it’s coming through, where the breach is. Yeah, they’re busy here.
Audrey Carleton [Scene] 00:54
And they would do that just to hide it or something?
Dawn Goodwin 00:58
Yeah, I think they’re trying to hide it. If you pull on to the right, we can kind of observe a little from here. And that could be security. But we’re not doing nothing wrong.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 01:11
A terminal is an industrial hub where pipelines meet. [Sound of car, scene, conversation carries on underneath narration.] Think of something like a depot. Oil and gas is shipped in and stored in holding tanks, before it’s redirected to refineries and sent away in trucks, trains and pipes. This one is in Clearwater County, Minnesota, about five hours north of Minneapolis by car. The land here is all plains forest and big sky.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 1:38
So that white truck, securities typically look like that. They come in white trucks?
Dawn Goodwin 01:42
Yeah. It could be securitas, but it’s got a light on it. So, it might not be. That’s probably just one of their crew. So yeah, they’re busy down there.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 01:54
Dawn was born and raised in this area, which is Ojibwe territory. This region is governed by a series of treaties written in the 1800s that gave the Ojibwe the rights to hunt, fish, gather and travel here. The terminal is also on treaty territory. Dawn was here recently, before our visit.
[Scene continues, sound of Dawn’s voice in background plays]
[Geese heard in background of scene]
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 02:18
For Dawn, this is the scene of a crime.
Audrey Carleton [Scene] 2:22
Yeah, they are busy today. Okay, so a lot of massive, massive tanks. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a tank this big.
Dawn Goodwin 02:31
So, they are busy over here. These are oil tanks. They’ve got oil, they store the oil in em. Doesn’t look like much from the road, but once you start getting in here…
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 02:46 – BRING UP LEVELS OF CAR ROOM TONE AROUND HERE
I’m an environmental reporter. I’ve seen oil infrastructure up close before, but never anything like this. This terminal has maybe a dozen unfathomably large tanks lined up in rows. I’m craning my neck to look at them. We stopped to take pictures, but my phone camera can barely capture each one and fall. They sit on either side of this passage that we’re driving through. And they feel like they’re closing in on us. The whole thing is tucked away from a two-lane highway. You’d miss it from the road. Unless you spotted the long-haul tracks that shuffle in and out.
Audrey Carleton [Scene] 03:20
This is like dozens and dozens of tanks. I keep thinking they’ll stop and then they don’t.
Dawn Goodwin 03:26
Audrey Carleton [Scene] 03:28
So the two lines come together here.
Dawn Goodwin 03:31
Yeah, all the lines come here. If you turn right, we’ll come to this calcareous fen. So, this is the calcareous fen in here.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 03:43
We get out of the car. Dawn takes out her phone to read me a description.
Dawn Goodwin 03:49
So, calcareous fens are rare and distinctive peat-accumulating wetlands. They depend on a constant supply of upwelling groundwater, rich in calcium and other minerals. They typically occur on slopes where groundwater rises to the surface and saturates the peat before draining away, causing the area to be spongy and wet.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 04:12
They call this part of the country “the land of 1000 lakes.” And when you drive through it, it’s clear why. There are small freshwater bodies all over northern Minnesota, home to vibrant ecosystems. There’s tall grasses which hide little pockets of water, that are easy to miss if you don’t have your footing. Here, these tanks sit right on top of a calcareous fen. They’re some of the rarest ecosystems in the US. Small disturbances can damage them for centuries. Enbridge has already pierced an aquifer that lays a few dozen feet below the wetland once this year. This led to a pretty huge leak: 24-million gallons of groundwater that it looks like they’re still cleaning up when we visit.
Audrey Carleton [Scene] 4:50
Can we get out and walk around?
Dawn Goodwin 04:57
Mhm. We just parked over here the other day and we sat down. You might even see our little spot we were sitting.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 05:05
Dawn’s spent the last 10 years fighting for wetlands like these. [Contemplative music fades in] The lakes here support beds of wild rice that are vital to the economy and to Ojibwe culture. Dawn is one of many who call themselves water protectors. She spent a lot of the last year camping out day and night to protest with a few others. They live in RVs and tents and hollowed out off-grid buses. She runs a protest camp called Manoomin, the Ojibwe word for wild rice. It’s near her home outside of Bagley, Minnesota, population: 1400.
She has a calm and quiet presence, but she’s the force behind this place. Cars of eager visitors pop in and out throughout the weekend, all to see her, all welcomed with a cheerful ‘Boozhoo!’ the Ojibwe word for ‘Hello.’ The camp is self-sustaining, with everyone chipping in somehow. [Sound of clanging pots and pans from camp fades in background]. Dish duty, dinner duty, toilet duty. Sometimes, they pack up and move to new temporary locations, like the one where we meet them in late October. This place is called Camp Firelight.
It’s getting down to 20 degrees at night here. But Dawn is still out camping. Because she’s trying to stop the newest pipeline that funnels into the terminal that we visited. She’s trying to stop Line 3.
[Introductory guitar fades up in background]
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 06:32
I’m Audrey Carleton and you’re listening to On the Line, an investigation into a climate battle in Minnesota. Over the next six episodes, will take you to the frontlines of that battle. Oil began flowing through Line 3 in October. But water protectors say their fight is not over. On today’s episode, what happened in Minnesota, and what’s changed now that protests have slowed down. What’s left to fight, and the people who are left fighting.
[Music fades down in background]
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 07:11
it’s the end of October, and it’s peaceful now. But since December of 2020, this part of the country has been the site of fervent protests over the Line 3 expansion pipeline. Line 3 is massive. Literally. It’s three feet in diameter and it runs for 337 miles in Minnesota. It’s designed to carry 760,000 barrels of unfiltered crude oil from Alberta to Wisconsin. The burning of that oil is predicted to release the same planet warming emissions each year as 50 new coal plants.
There’s still a handful of resistance camps like these along different parts of the line, about an hour apart from each other. Some are prepping for the winter, like Dawn’s. Each has its own distinct personality. But they all have the same goal. Construction began in 2017. But Line 3 didn’t become a major national news story until last year. That was when Minnesota gave Enbridge the last set of permits it needed to complete the line. Local environmentalists and Indigenous communities have been fighting construction ever since. Nearly 1,000 activists have been arrested here. Dawn was one of them. So was Julie Richards
Julie Richards (Julz) 08:30
We fought hard. We fought hard against this pipeline. But it’s still like a devastating feeling to know that we fought so hard and for the oil to still be flowing.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 08:47
Julie came to Line 3 in July from her home on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Her friends call her Mama Julz.
Julie Richards (Julz) 08:54
I felt really bad when they told me the oil was flowing. I like, literally I cried. And it was just like, almost a defeated feeling. And then you think about the rice, and you think about the wildlife ,and you think about the water and all’s we could do is continue to pray for them to thrive through this.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 09:13
Julz is a veteran pipeline fighter. She’s been training and participating in protests since the Keystone XL fight in the early 2010s. She cares very deeply about the land and about climate change. But that’s just one of her concerns. Julz has seen pipelines tear at the fabric of her community. Every construction project brings in camps of transient oil and gas workers. They’re called ‘man camps’ and statistics show that in the areas where they pop up, rates of violence and drug abuse and sex trafficking tend to spike. This has been well documented, in particular, around the Bakken oil field, which feeds the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Reservation. Though her own rez is a few hours south of there, Julz saw this happen up close.
Julie Richards (Julz) 10:02
They were bringing in the Indigenous women in sex trafficking ‘em, and like some of them were disappearing, and they were finding like, random kids like, beat up walking from like the man camps. I started researching these man camps and I’m like, ‘okay.’ And then that same summer, our cops had stopped a vehicle from Newtown, North Dakota with a pound of meth and a pound of heroin that they were delivering to my territory. I was like, really curious to know, like, where’s this meth coming from? How do we have meth here? And this was like eight years ago. Usually, these pipelines are in a hurry to get built, because Indigenous peoples are fighting against them. So, they want to work 24/7. Their job is to get them built as quick as possible. And coffee’s not going to keep them up 24/7. So, they bring in the meth. And a lot of the cartels from down south come and work at these pipelines. And so that’s where the meth comes from these cartels, and then they infiltrate the Indigenous territories around not only just around there, but like in the Dakotas, since the Bakkens, like in North Dakota trickles down to South Dakota reservations.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 11:19
When Julz caught on to what was happening, she sought help from a reservation. That didn’t go very far. So, she started her own advocacy group, the Mothers Against Meth Alliance. And that’s what took her to Standing Rock.
Julie Richards (Julz) 11:32
I was like, okay, you know, I want to, I want to do something against these pipelines and these man camps and, and then Standing Rock, they did a call-out for warriors at Standing Rock. So that was my first pipeline fight. And that was my very first lockdown was at Standing Rock. And then I just went on to continue to fight these pipelines in the man camps and to bring awareness to the drugs and the sex trafficking and the missing and murdered Indigenous relatives.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 12:03
The US is home to more than 2.6 million miles of pipelines. But they weren’t really considered political until the early 2010s, around Keystone XL. Since then, we’ve seen protests around dozens of new pipeline projects, like Dakota Access, or the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana, or the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia. You might have heard of those. Julz was at all of them. So, when she heard about Line 3, she knew she had to be there.
Julie Richards (Julz) 12:32
That was pretty wild out. I’m not gonna lie. That was the wildest deploy that I’ve ever been on, was that one. I mean, it was fun. It was safe, but it was wild.
[Sound of chants from tape of protests on July 1 in Minnesota play in background]
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 12:44
The day is July 1st 2021. Julz and a handful of other water protectors are in northern Minnesota. It’s a notably hot day in the region, in the middle of a summer of drought and wildfire. Julz and a few others make their way from their protest camp to one of the construction sites where the pipeline’s being built.
Julie Richards (Julz) 13:02
And I get out and I go run in, and my crew’s with me, and I’m like, wait, I can’t get through that trench. And then they’re like, ‘no, mama, you’re at the wrong spot, we’re sorry, we brought you to the wrong spot.’ So, I had to run back getting a vehicle go down the road. The cops were already there. So, we just went around onto the site in I got locked in. There was like 20 of us. I think there’s like five on each machine.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 13:29
They locked themselves to construction equipment. Julz locks her body to a bulldozer. Unicorn Riot, a progressive news outlet, was there with her that day. This is their footage.
Julie Richards (Julz) 13:40
My name is Julie Richards. I’m from Oglala territory. I’m the founder of the Mothers Against Meth Alliance. And today I’m putting my body on the line to stop construction on Line 3 to stand against these man camps that bring destruction not only to our mother, but to our communities, with the drugs and the sex trafficking and the missing and murdered Indigenous relative epidemic. This is the head of the fucking black snake.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 14:06
Police presence was heavy. In the video, there are cops all around where Julz is locked up. She says they came in and cleared onlookers out almost immediately. But then there were few hours of rest. And everyone who was locked down stayed put.
Ginger Cassady 14:21
We were sitting there, and she was just singing a lot of their traditional songs as we were locked down to the pipeline and an eagle flew over, and it just was like a lot of magical moments and just really talking aboutl, you know, how sacred this land is to Indigenous natives.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 14:37 We talked to a few other people who locked their bodies to the pipeline that day. That was Ginger Cassady. We also talked to her colleague, Laurel Sutherlin. This is what they told us.
Laurel Sutherlin 14:47
The disproportionate display of force on the part of the law enforcement is definitely — was pretty startling. They shut down the whole highway for miles in both directions that was nearby, and they removed everybody, and they brought out ridiculous numbers of law enforcement and then they cleared everybody out. But after that, there was a six or seven hour period or more of relative quietude, where there was very little happening.
Ginger Cassady 15:13
We were there until probably about seven o’clock at night and and that’s when they brought in, you know, lots of extraction teams.
Laurel Sutherlin 15:19
All of a sudden, dozens and dozens of law enforcement vehicles swarm in from both directions and dozens and dozens and dozens of fully armored, fully clad sheriff’s deputies with shields and batons and helmets, you know, get out and create a full perimeter of the worksite.
Julie Richards (Julz) 15:36
And then the cops came in really violent. They had riot gear, but they also had guns, they came in with guns. They had these big sticks on them, and they just started tearing down the banners, just being like really violent,
Laurel Sutherlin 15:53
There was probably close to 100 officers, and they lined up sort of along the length of the big ditch.
Julie Richards (Julz) 15:59
I just went into prayer. And I just asked my ancestors to touch their minds and their hearts to let them know why we fight.
Ginger Cassady 16:06
And that’s when they brought in lots of extraction teams and then detained everybody. And most folks, all of us spent the night in jail, you know, but it was interesting because a lot of folks, they allow you to get out on personal recognizance. But with us, they set our bail at $5,000.
Julie Richards (Julz) 16:22
I was sad, because only five of us read but a post bail. And we took the $5,000 with conditions and part of the conditions is Enbridge having a restraining order on us. So that was really hard, too, just knowing that we’re not, you know, we can’t be on any of their property or anything like that. It was really heavy, like knowing that 15 of our people are still kidnapped and locked up in there because we don’t have enough money to bond them out. I always pray for them and really push our jail funds. I don’t care who you are, like, send money to our bail funds because we don’t have the millions of dollars that the other accountants do because like majority of our money goes to bond people out for doing these actions.
Audrey Carleton [Scene] 17:12
And they got out after..?
Julie Richards (Julz) 17:13
Monday. Yeah, they got out that Monday, they were able to raise enough money to get everybody out.
Audrey Carleton [Scene] 17:15 It’s a long time though.
Julie Richards (Julz) 17:20 Yeah it is, especially in solitary confinement, I would have done lost my mind.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 17:27
Julz, Laurel and Ginger spent the night at Hubbard County Jail, a jail with a reputation among protesters as a particularly punitive one. They say they’re lucky they got out the next morning. But before they did, they were given one more thing. Something that they’re still carrying with them today, that they’ll probably be carrying with them for months, maybe years. They were charged with felonies.
[Electric guitar strum plays in background]
Julie Richards (Julz) 17:55
The cop’s like, ‘alright, you’re under arrest.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, what’s our charges,’ and he’s like, ‘Felony theft.’ So I said, ‘What did we steal?’ And he was like, ‘this machine you’re on,’ I’m like, ‘wow, really, in reality, you’re gonna be stealing us off this machine. This machine’s still gonna be here. It’s not moving, but you’re gonna kidnap us and throw us in jail. So, where’s this felony theft coming from, because we did not steal that machinery. They were just trying to you know, figure out something to get us that will stick within the court or whatever. And I don’t even know how this felony theft is even being put on us.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 18:35
This isn’t Julz’s first felony charge for pipeline protest either. She caught one for tying up to a drill rig by the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana a few years ago. By coincidence, that felony was dropped around the same time that she caught her new felony at Line 3.
Julz is taking the new felony charges in stride. And throughout the weeks I spent talking to her, it seemed like the idea of losing the fight to Enbridge scared her more than the idea of doing time. On the day before oil was slated to start flowing. I called her to check in and she wept. Now she and her co-defendants could spend up to 10 years in prison if the charges stick.
And there’s reason to fear this could happen. In June of this year. A 39-year-old woman named Jessica Reznicek was sentenced to eight years in prison with $3.2 million in fines for sabotage and conspiracy to damage an energy facility at Standing Rock. She’s sitting in federal prison today.
The number of environmentalists facing similar felony charges is on the rise across the country. And because of Line 3 protests, more than 100 activists have joined their ranks. This is because of an increasing number of state laws designed to protect what’s called ‘critical infrastructure.’
Jenna Ruddock 19:51
I honestly can’t remember exactly how I first heard about critical infrastructure trespass bills, but these laws just immediately struck me as clearly draconian and targeted at suppressing protests against fossil fuel infrastructure.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 20:07
This is Jenna Ruddock. She’s a senior researcher at the Washington College of Law in DC. She has been tracking critical infrastructure laws since Standing Rock. After hundreds of activists flocked to North Dakota in 2016 to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, fossil fuel companies started to take note. These protests were slowing down construction. And this was costing the money. Like, millions of dollars a day, Jenna told me
Jenna Ruddock 20:34
in some cases, you have seen instances where activists have been able to delay the construction of oil and gas projects long enough that the cost is too high, and people start to pull out of the project, financial backers start to pull out of the project and then it just becomes financially not feasible to move forward.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 20:56
The fossil fuel industry began calling for harsher sentences for protest around things like pipelines and refineries. The first of these bills was introduced in Oklahoma by a state legislator with a history of accepting political donations from the industry. And they made trespassing on so-called ‘critical infrastructure’ a felony. Violators could be punished by $100,000 in fines, and 10 years in prison. Oklahoma’s law passed in 2017. Soon after, similar bills were introduced in other states with major pending oil and gas projects.
In Minnesota, trespass on critical infrastructure is still a misdemeanor. But a number of bills have been introduced in recent years that would make it a felony. Environmentalists there told me they’ve spent a lot of time fighting them off. It’s possible that that’s why prosecutors handed Julz, Laurel and Ginger other kinds of felonies, like theft. Critical Infrastructure laws are criticized as anti-protest laws, because quite literally, they keep people from wanting to join protests.
Jenna Ruddock 22:01
There’s a huge chilling effect for anybody who might consider engaging in protests against pipelines. With fossil fuel infrastructure, especially, you’re usually talking about a fairly small community of people who are able to consistently be on the frontlines. Because a lot of these infrastructure projects deliberately take place away from major population centers. And so, it makes it harder for people to get out there. So, if you can really target those people who are out there and who have made that commitment and impact their numbers, then that’s kind of a huge blow for the capacity of a movement as a whole to have a sustained resistance.
[Somber music plays in background]
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 22:37
It seems like everyone we’ve met who’s been involved in the Line 3 fight has either caught a felony or misdemeanor, or been arrested, or knows someone who’s been arrested. Even Dawn, the quiet force behind camp firelight, who took us around Line 3 in October, has charges of her own.
Dawn Goodwin 22:53
They were trying to ticket me. They had the twist ties and everything. Everybody was like, ‘let her go.’ And so they kind of like just eased off. And I said, ‘I’m not going with you, but I’ll go with the sheriff to be cited,’ and so they cited me, and I went home.
Audrey Carleton [Narration] 23:11
Dawn was arrested last February, and she’s still awaiting details on her case. By the time we wrapped production on this episode, so were Julz and Ginger and Laurel — in December. That’s almost six months after the day of their protest. We’ll continue to follow them even after this episode comes out.
And there are dozens more like them in Minnesota. This summer, one person was given a felony trespass charge for flying a drone over Line 3. It’s one of the only ways to discover what’s happening with construction, because so much of it takes place on private property. Two others were given felonies for allegedly aiding and abetting each other’s suicides as they climbed into a pipe that was being placed under a stretch of river. The protesters survived, and in fact had no intent to commit suicide. That’s just what their charges said.
These charges will set a legal precedent if they stick because it would make it easier for future anti protest laws to take people like them out on felonies.
And, in Minnesota, none of this would be possible without the influence of Enbridge. Because the huge numbers of local police officers who came to Line 3 that day? [Somber guitar strum builds up in background] For the last year, the company has been paying their sheriff’s departments to police actions like that one.
[Somber guitar thematic song strum in background, building in tension]
Audrey Carleton 24:41
On the next episode, how Enbridge has spent more than $3-million in Minnesota on police officers’ gas meals, overtime, wages and weaponry.
Bill McKibben 24:51
The precedent that they’re trying to set is just to scare the hell out of everybody.
Laurel Sutherlin 24:55
That local law enforcement can have their expenses paid by a foreign energy company to brutally suppress local protesters should, to me, be extremely alarming to anybody paying attention.
Audrey Carleton 25:10
Why do you think the DNR is so lenient with Enbridge?
Dawn Goodwin 25:14
Regulatory capture. It’s all in concert together? Good way to say collusion, they are a concert.
[Strumming fades out in background]
That’s next time on On the Line.
This episode of On the Line was reported and written by me [Audrey Carleton] and edited by Connor Zaft, who also composed the music and did the sound design. Our editor is Curtis Fox. Many thanks to Dawn Goodwin, Julie Richards, Ginger Cassady, Laurel Sutherlin, Jenna Ruddock, Gingger Shankar, Natalie Cook, and Bill McKibben, who talked to us for this episode. We are also grateful to the water protectors we met at Camp Firelight in Minnesota and at the People vs. Fossil Fuels protests in Washington, D.C. for their time, generosity, and insight.
I’m Audrey Carleton. Thanks for listening.