MINOT, N.D. — Earlier this week a group of activists looking to stop construction on Enbridge's Line 3 replacement project attacked a pump station site.
They vandalized equipment and terrorized workers, dozen of whom were locked in by the protesters. Ultimately, the assault resulted in about 250 arrests, though the group that organized the activists, Treaty People, was prepared for that. They held seminars before the escalation in protests this week at which they assured those who planned to be arrested of monetary assistance with their legal fees and even clothes for court.
But while the protesters, backed by deep-pocketed activist groups and professional public relations personnel, have been the focus of much of the news media's reporting on the incident, far less has been paid to the pipeline workers under attack.
That's a travesty, especially given just who some of those workers are.
A group of tribal contractors who are working on the Line 3 project has written a letter (see below) calling for the unlawful protests to stop.
"Protests that disrupt work, damage property, and threaten our employees while claiming to be on behalf of our Native people is creating additional tension and consequences within our tribal communities," they wrote in the letter which was shared with me. "They also intentionally create a false narrative that there is no Native American support for this project and the economic impacts and opportunities it brings to our people."
To be clear, these contractors are not calling for an end to the protests, but an end to the unlawful activity perpetrated, or at least supported and condoned, by a large number of the demonstrators.
"We respect the rights of everyone to express their opinions and to protest. As Native people, making sure our voice is heard is even more important and essential, yet what happened on Monday went far beyond and resulted in Native workers being forced to stop working as their job sites were overrun by protestors," they wrote in their letter which accompanied pictures of the chaos and vandalism wrought by the activists.
"As a united voice of Tribal businesses, contractors and workers, we are encouraging leaders of Tribal communities across Minnesota to renounce these actions and call on these groups to stop future destructive and unlawful protests that endanger our Native workers and divide the communities in which we work and live," the conclude in their letter.
The great irony in this is that so many of the activists responsible for these often violent and unlawful demonstrations against pipelines, perpetrated in the name of standing up for Native Americans, are, at least judging anecdotally from the pictures and video available, about as Native American as I am.
Which is to say, not Native American at all.
Yet here are a group of Native American business people, who employ many Native American workers, who were attacked by those demonstrators. They were harmed. Their property was vandalized, their work was delayed, and they were made to feel afraid for doing nothing more sinister than working on a perfectly legal construction project that was approved by the appropriate authorities agencies after a lengthy and exacting regulatory and legal process.
And yet it's exactly the outcome planned for by the groups organizing the demonstrations against Line 3. Groups that spend a lot of time and energy playing up how respectful they are of Native Americans.
Apparently that's a courtesy extended only to Native Americans who happen to agree with their political agendas, which is an ugly reality to confront.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.