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5 of ‘Shell River Seven’ have charges dismissed from Line 3 protest

Two more are still facing litigation including Winona Laduke, who was jailed in Wadena County Jail for three days following the incident.

Line-3-SHELL Confrontation (1).jpg
Line 3 protesters stand before county sheriff deputies from around the region in July 2021 near the Shell River, by Menahga, Minn.
Contributed by Citizen X
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WADENA — Charges of trespassing and obstruction of legal process were dismissed against five of the women from the group known as the ‘Shell River Seven’ in Wadena County District Court on Monday, Oct. 31.

Those women include Kelly Maracle, Trish Weber, Mary Klein, Barbara With, and Cheryl Barnds. All pleaded not guilty.

The seven women were arrested back in July 2021 when they sat chained together on lawn chairs on a Line 3 oil pipeline easement in northern Wadena County, near the Shell River. This was a location where construction was not actively taking place, but horizontal drilling was planned nearby to install a pipeline under the Shell River.

Map of line 3 project (Enbridge graphic)
Map of Line 3 project as it runs through Minnesota.
Contributed by Enbridge

The charges against the women stated that they were trespassing on the easement where construction of the oil pipeline was to take place. When asked to leave, they told law enforcement that they were unable to unchain themselves. They were eventually directed to move to an area where specialists could remove the log chain, bicycle locks and padlocks from binding each other together. They were then taken to the Wadena County Jail, according to court documents. Their goal was to sit in protest against the construction of the Line 3 pipeline that now makes its way south from Canada and through a portion of Wadena County on its way to Superior, Wisc. That pipeline has been operational for more than one year now.

On Wednesday, the Canada-based company Enbridge announced Line 3 would be in service starting Friday, Oct. 1. Pipeline proponents and opponents both made statements in response to the news.

Wadena County District Court Judge Doug Clark dismissed the charges on the grounds that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate probable cause to sustain the charges.

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The defense argued in their order that the women were invited to the location to exercise their rights and that the location they were seated was not on a pipeline by definition, rather it was a wooden boardwalk. The defendants also claimed that their act of chaining themselves together and speaking to law enforcement about possible threats posed by the pipeline and Indian treaty rights did not rise to the level of physically obstructing, hindering, or preventing their being taken into custody.

Judge Clark’s conclusion was that the protest was taking place away from an active pipeline construction and the protesters presence there was not affecting the ongoing drilling. He added that there was insufficient evidence that the women being chained together was significant to constitute physical obstruction.

“The court makes this determination considering both the location of the defendants’ protest and arrest, and the fact that all of the defendants were compliant with law enforcement and did not attempt to escape or resist,” the court order read.

Several charges against the other two Shell River Seven, including independent photojournalist K. Flo Razowsky and Winona LaDuke, Executive Director and co-founder of Honor the Earth, remain in place pending ongoing litigation, according to a news release from the group Honor the Earth.

Line 3 headlines from the region

Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in the city of Verndale, Minn., but is bent on making it as country as he can until he returns once more to the farm living he enjoys. Also living the dream are his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at mjohnson@agweek.com or 218-640-2312.
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