Winona LaDuke to testify in support of defendants in Aitkin, calls on State to #Dropthecharges

February 9, 2022

Six more Water Protectors – including Julia Nerbonne, Executive Director of Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light *– will be going to court in Aitkin County Thursday, most facing exaggerated charges for their free speech protests against Line 3, just as a recent Intercept news story reveals the extremes Enbridge went to by targeting opposition tribes and Indigenous leaders like Winona LaDuke and others in counterinsurgency measures used to paint protestors as “threats.”

“The Minnesota permit that granted permission for the Line 3 pipeline
barred Enbridge from utilizing ‘counterinsurgency tactics.’” 

The Intercept

LaDuke, who is still awaiting a court date in Wadena County, will testify in defense of Water Protectors charged in Aitkin during the Evidentiary Hearing and call on state government officials to drop the charges, which are over-burdening county judicial systems across northern Minnesota.

A protest outside the courthouse will take place.

The Intercept

Internal documents reviewed by The Intercept describe how Enbridge launched an initiative known as Opposition Driven Operational Threats, or ODOT, to focus the company’s attention on Indigenous opposition to Line 3 and Line 5, two controversial pipelines that transport carbon-intensive tar sands oil between Canada and the United States.

“To the rest of us, ‘threat’ means actual threats to life and liberty, but to them this is all about how much money they can extract while carrying out an operation that is environmentally devastating,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund’s Center for Protest Law and Litigation and an attorney representing opponents of Line 3, in the story. “You begin to have this perversion of concepts of what actually are true threats.”

* Nerbonne and others were arrested while preparing for a ceremony with LaDuke at a prayer lodge on 1855 Treaty ceded lands guaranteed for use by Ojibwe people for hunting, fishing and gathering. White Earth’s Tribal Liaison will also testify about the nature of the site at the evidentiary hearing Thursday. The area had been under a stop-work order issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers, as well as a cease-and-desist order issued by the 1855 Treaty Authority stating Enbridge pipeline construction near the prayer lodge violated the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978. 


  • Thursday, February 10, 2022 – Aitkin Courthouse – 2:30 to 4:30 pm
  • 209 2nd St NW, Aitkin, MN 56431
#WeLoveWaterProtectors occupy the Aitkin County Courthouse lawn overnight in support of #waterprotectors arrested at or around the Willow River as #enbridge lays Northern Minnesota to waste with the #line3 #tarsands #pipeline. Twenty five people braved temps in the 30s to show the town and the police in Aitkin that we support those who stand for the #water. Photo: Honor The Earth

LaDuke: “Whether you view those working to retire fossil fuels, prioritize waters, and honor treaties as heroic or misguided, their actions at Line 3 were not criminal, and should not be clogging our court system and wasting our tax dollars. Many of the charges, such as felony theft of time, were exaggerated to deter further protests. None of the defendants have been identified as a danger to the community. Water Protectors acted in the public interest and deserve to have their charges dropped.”

She added, “This burden to our counties comes at a time when court offices are already understaffed and overwhelmed by cases and covid. In nearby Hubbard County, for example, there were at least 430 arrests, of which at least 320 cases are still open. Continued prosecution of these cases is not only expensive, but it also infringes on first amendment and treaty rights.”

Winona LaDuke’s prayer lodge on 1855 Treaty Territory, on the banks of the Mississippi, July 2021. Photo: Honor The Earth

Sign the petition: DROP THE CHARGES


Martin Keller, Honor the Earth/Media Savant Communications, 612-220-6515,

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