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Pipeline protest visits courthouse

Protesters opposed to the replacement of Enbridge’s Line 3 gather outside the Douglas County Courthouse Friday. They include, front left, Alicia Smith of Milwaukee and front right, Shawn Carr of Duluth. A 12.5-mile segment of the pipeline is currently under construction in Douglas County. Maria Lockwood

Protests over the replacement of Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline spilled from the work site along County Highway W in the town of Superior to the front of the Douglas County Courthouse Friday.

Carrying signs and flags, more than a dozen people stood outside the building for hours.

"Love water, not oil," some shouted.

They came from different groups, different states, but with the united purpose of bringing attention to the pipeline work.

"I feel every little thing we do getting heard is forward progress," said Shawn Carr of Duluth.

He's concerned about the tar sands that the pipeline would carry. Unlike crude oil, he said, the mix of tar sands and chemicals would sink to the bottom of any water in the event of a spill.

"We're kind of getting limited where good water is these days," Carr said. "I think we really need to be safeguarding what we have here."

He's also worried about chemicals that could leach from the sections of old pipe that will be left in the ground.

Korii Northrup, a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, said there is no need to replace the line with a bigger one, especially if the country is making a shift to greener energy.

"Replacement is just a choice of words," said Kathy Hollander of Minneapolis. "We call it expansion and relocation because what they're really doing is a larger size pipe, a different kind of oil in a new location. That to me is not a replacement."

Northrup said she's concerned about the impact on the environment and people.

"I want everybody to have clean water, even people that oppose us," she said. "I want those people who work for Enbridge, their children to have clean water. It's not an us or them thing, it's a way of life business."

The group attended a court hearing for five protesters who were arrested Thursday at the work site along Highway W. It's the second time arrests have been made since protests began along the line replacement project.

In total, 10 people have been charged in Douglas County Circuit Court with trespassing and disorderly conduct at the site. Some also face charges of criminal damage to property, resisting an officer and bail jumping. The most serious charges --bail jumping and resisting an officer, carry a maximum sentence of nine months in jail or a $10,000 fine.

One protester, Dallon Wayne White, 33, of Cloquet, was charged in both incidents.

The ongoing protests — including two last week — have impacted work at the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

"It's a nuisance for us," said Sheriff Tom Dalbec. "Because here we are, we have to pull people away from their regular work duties and pull deputies off the road so we're out there dealing with this."

Overtime has been minimal, he said Friday, but the incidents have pulled detectives, sergeants and even a courthouse security officer from regular duties.

The sheriff said he set aside a spot near the pipeline work where protesters can stand. The arrests occurred when they left that area and trespassed on the work site.

"We're just doing what we have to do," Dalbec said. "I'm not siding with Enbridge; I'm not siding with the protesters. We're just here to make sure that both groups of people can do what they have to do. Enbridge does their work; the protesters want to protest, fine, we'll monitor it. But as soon as somebody does something they're not supposed to do, that's when we have to step in."

At Thursday's protest, deputies observed a masked group of people at the site. According to criminal complaints, two men secured themselves to an excavator using a pipe-like device called a "sleeping dragon." The tar covering the devices ruined one deputy's uniform and the knife he used to help dismantle it. A deputy deployed a Taser twice against one protester who ran away to avoid arrest.

The five people arrested at the site Thursday included two from Missouri, one from Indiana and two from Cloquet. The prior week, six protesters were arrested at the site — three from Cloquet, one from South Dakota, one from Michigan and one from Saskatchewan, Canada. All have since been released on cash bond.

Attracting people from throughout the country is a plus for the movement, Carr said.

"I'd like to see everybody be interested because it affects us all," the Duluth man said. "You have to think about future generations. What kind of legacy are we leaving for our children and our grandchildren just so somebody can make a couple bucks right now?"