Line 3 charges dismissed against five of the “Shell River 7” water protectors

November 1, 2022

On Monday, October 31, 2022, District Judge Doug Clark dismissed all charges against five of the “Shell River 7” water protectors. The five include Kelly Maracle, Trish Weber, Mary Klein, Barbara With, and Cheryl Barnds. Judge Clark dismissed the cases on grounds that the State had failed to demonstrate probable cause to sustain all charges. In doing so, Judge Clark did not reach the Shell River defendants’ treaty-based claims.

READ THE RULING HERE

Several charges against the other two Shell River 7 water protectors—independent photojournalist K. Flo Razowsky and Winona LaDuke, Executive Director and co-founder of Honor the Earth—remain in place pending ongoing litigation.

The “Shell River 7” were charged for peacefully standing up against the Line 3 tar sands pipeline in July 2021, which was forced under the Shell River at a time of extreme drought, violating Anishinaabe Treaty Rights and threatening the river’s endangered mussels and other river life, as well as drinking water for millions. All seven defendants were identically charged and pleaded not guilty to the following:

● Count 1 – gross misdemeanor trespass on posted critical public service infrastructure (maximum penalty 365 days in jail)

● Count 2 – gross misdemeanor trespass on critical public service infrastructure and , refusal to leave on demand (maximum penalty 365 days in jail) 

● Count 3 – misdemeanor obstruction of legal process  (maximum penalty 90 days in jail)

The seven were arrested and taken to Wadena County jail, where they were detained for two days awaiting court hearings. LaDuke, a Harvard graduate, longtime political organizer, Anishinaabe tribal member, and the appointed Guardian ad litem of the Shell River, was detained for a third day and transferred to the Aitkin County Jail for allegedly “violating conditions of release” in a prior #StopLine3 case. She wrote a letter from the Wadena County jail.

Shell River 7 attorney accuses State of Criminalizing and over-charging pipeline protestors to stifle dissent and suppress movements

“Criminalizing and over-charging protestors is a common tactic used by the State to scare activists and suppress movements. The criminalization of the Shell River defendants was no exception, and this dismissal is a powerful victory for water protectors,” said attorney Claire Glenn. Glenn, the Line 3 Legal Fellow of the Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) and Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC), represented Cheryl Barnds and will continue to jointly represent Winona LaDuke with Anishinaabe movement lawyer Frank Bibeau.

CLDC attorneys Lauren Regan and Sarah Alvarez represented the four other Shell River defendants whose cases were dismissed. “We are hopeful that the prosecutor will do the right thing and dismiss the other water protectors’ cases that remain open in Wadena County, including that of Shell River guardian ad litem Winona LaDuke,” Glenn added.

“It’s no surprise that cases continue to be dismissed for lack of probable cause and other constitutional deprivations and violations, after the Minnesota legislature criminalized protected civil rights and the PUC created a multi-million dollar slush fund to militarize fast and furious enforcement by the DNR and local law enforcement,” said attorney Frank Bibeau.

“Now a year later, when Water Protectors provided thermal imaging Line 3 flyover data that revealed many additional post-construction frac outs at river crossings and aquifer breaches, after Enbridge said everything was fixed, the DNR issues $14M in fines and a criminal charge,” he continued. “The sad irony is that we will all pay Enbridge’s fines with every tank of gas at the pump or home heating fuel, and live with the irreparable environmental degradation. Minnesota should dismiss all water protector charges and quit wasting the courts resources.

“Minnesota law enforcement were incentivized by the Enbridge-PUC escrow fund deal to bring these phony charges against water protectors throughout the north country,” LaDuke explained. “The result? Overzealous local police, state troopers, and DNR officers made over 1,000 arrests of people peacefully working to Stop Line 3 in 2020 and 2021.”

“In all, these agencies received $8.6 million in payments from Enbridge, even while the state continues to waste taxpayer monies in the courts, prosecuting theses frivolous attempts to make criminals out of us, while the real criminals breach our aquifers and fill the Mississippi River headwaters with frac-out fluids. Not surprisingly, after two years of litigation, most Line 3 water protector cases have been resolved or dismissed outright. Still, I’m grateful these charges were dismissed. It’s time now for healing.”

Fellow defendant Barbara With went even further in her condemnation of Enbridge: “In the past two weeks, Enbridge Energy has been charged as criminals in MInnesota and Pennsylvania for environmental damage to the waters. When are they going to court? They aren’t. Why are U.S. citizens who are trying to protect themselves from a foreign fossil fuel corporation facing arrest, when no one at Enbridge will ever be held accountable for their crimes? Today we have a tiny bit of justice but the fight for our rights and the water continue.”

“I was arrested for honoring the One Dish One Spoon treaty that we, Haudenosaunee, have with our Anishinaabe relatives. We share responsibility to protect the water, land and animals,” responded Kelly Maracle, who is Mohawk and Seneca, Bear Clan–the same Clan as LaDuke–and a grandmother and water protector. “I am extremely pleased to see, in this case, it’s been recognized that treaties are the supreme law of the land.”

The Shell River 7 stand their ground in a confrontation with law enforcement, the Shell River behind them, July 2021 (Photo credit: Citizen X)

Cheryl Barnds said she was sorry to see the cases end without strengthening legal precedents for treaty rights. “Enbridge makes $80 million every day. The millions they’re paying for irreparable damage to pristine waters, like the millions they spent arresting those protesting crimes against Mother Earth and Indigenous rights, are line items on a spreadsheet, drops in a bottomless bucket of greed and delusion. In the name of public interest, they trespassed on Anishinaabe lands and took elders (and their lawn chairs) to jail. Fossil fuels must be stopped before we poison our last drop of water, pollute our last breath of air, torch our only life-sustaining planet.”

“What I want,” explained Trish Weber, “is for the fossil fuel industry to have to play by the same rules as everyone else. But because they can’t compete economically in the free market, they’ve used the corrupting influence of money in politics to break the system to serve their ends.”

“I would like to thank all the water protectors who stood up against Line 3 and the criminal acts of the Enbridge corporation,” Mary Klein noted. ”I pray that all charges be dismissed for everyone involved in this. Protecting water, land, and treaty rights is not a crime. Perhaps now we can hold the Enbridge corporation accountable for their crimes against nature and humanity.”

For more information – or to interview the parties referenced in this news release – please contact Martin Keller. Media Savant Communications, 612-220-6515, mkeller@mediasavantcom.com, @mediasavant

MORE ABOUT THE SHELL RIVER AND LINE 3’s 22 WATER CROSSINGS

The Shell River was one of more than 22 water crossings where Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline were submerged under the river last year in the hastily built tar sands oil line. It was also the site where six women and an independent photojournalist were arrested and charged with multiple criminal offenses, later to be known as the “Shell River Seven.” That event was captured on film and in song in the short documentary music documentary, Shell River Seven #StopLine3.

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