Judge orders sheriff to stop blockading property used by protestors of Line 3 oil pipeline

A judge has ordered a northern Minnesota sheriff to stop blockading property used as a camp by Winona LaDuke and other environmental activists opposed to a controversial oil pipeline project.

On Friday, Hubbard County District Judge Jana Austad granted a temporary restraining order against Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes and Hubbard County Land Commissioner Mark “Chip” Lohmeier.

Indigenous activists opposing the replacement of Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline filed the civil complaint on July 16, arguing that a June 28 blockade of the camp near Menahga was a violation of private property rights, including, in particular, an easement covering the driveway to the property.

LaDuke was joined in the lawsuit by fellow plaintiff Tara Houska, the founder of the Giniw Collective, an Indigenous women-led environmental group. LaDuke is executive director of Honor the Earth.

Austad’s order bars Aukes from “barricading, obstructing or otherwise interfering with access to the disputed property” or threatening to arrest persons for coming to and from the camp.

“The alleged conduct of the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Department could also, if established, be a deprivation of constitutional rights,” Austad wrote.

The order does not restrict law enforcement’s ability “to interfere with access to the property, stop vehicles or people on the driveway or easement, pursuant to a valid warrant for criminal conduct.”

According to the judge’s order, the parties have “a preexisting relationship in which LaDuke sought an easement across county tax-forfeited property. She was granted the easement by the Hubbard County Board and paid for that easement.”

Aukes said he will appeal the order, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

Line 3 would carry Canadian tar sands oil and regular crude from Alberta and across North Dakota and Minnesota to Superior, Wis. The 1,000-mile pipeline is nearly done except for the Minnesota leg, which is more than halfway complete.

Opponents say the heavy oil would accelerate climate change and risk spills in lakes, wetlands and streams where Native Americans harvest wild rice, hunt, fish, and claim treaty rights. But Canada-based Enbridge says the replacement, made of stronger steel, will better protect the environment while restoring capacity and ensuring reliable deliveries to refineries.

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