Protesters maintain blockade at Minnesota oil pipeline site

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Security guards check on protesters under a boat blocking an entrance to an Enbridge Line 3 pumping station near Park Rapids, in northern Minnesota, Tuesday June 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Dave Kolpack)

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. (AP) — Protesters fighting a Canadian-based company’s push to replace an aging oil pipeline across northern Minnesota maintained a blockade at a pump station Tuesday as part of a summer drive to stop the project before it can go into service.

Two protesters spent the night locked down in a boat blocking the entrance to one construction site, while two others locked themselves down underneath, tucked in behind duffel bags, beach chairs, water bottles and clothing. A Hubbard County sheriff's deputy and a handful of private security guards stood by in the morning, but other law enforcement officers arrived as authorities went to work cutting the protesters free.

Deputies freed the two women in the boat early Tuesday afternoon and led them away. They worked into the afternoon to cut through the device that two men used to make it difficult to extract them from the trailer under the boat, which bore the name “Good Trouble" on its stern, a quote from the late civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who was known for encouraging people to get in “good trouble” in a worthy cause.

The pumping station near Park Rapids was a major focus of protests Monday, with some people chaining themselves to construction equipment before police made arrests. Law enforcement officials had still not released arrest figures by Tuesday afternoon. One of the lead groups organizing the protests, the Giniw Collective, put the number of arrests at over 150.

Environmental and tribal groups say Enbridge Energy's plan to replace Line 3 would worsen climate change and risk spills in sensitive areas where Native Americans harvest wild rice, hunt, fish, gather medicinal plants, and claim treaty rights. The line would cross the Mississippi River while carrying Canadian tar sands oil and regular crude from Alberta to Wisconsin.

Enbridge says the original pipeline — built in the 1960s — is deteriorating and can run at only about half its original capacity. It says the new line, made from stronger steel, will better protect the environment while restoring its capacity and ensuring reliable deliveries to U.S. refineries

Protesters said the Treaty People Gathering was the largest show of resistance yet to the project. They also rallied Monday at the headwaters of the Mississippi, roughly 20 minutes away, chanting “Stop Line 3!” and “Water is life!”

Among those attending was actress Jane Fonda, who held signs with President Joe Biden’s image that said, “Which side are you on?”

“This is important. This is what we need,” she told The Associated Press, motioning toward the crowd.

Biden has not taken a stand on Line 3.

Calgary-based Enbridge this month began a final construction push on Line 3, which clips a corner of North Dakota on its way across northern Minnesota to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The Canadian and Wisconsin replacement segments are already carrying oil.