MINOT, N.D. — The activists fighting the Line 3 pipeline replacement project (this is an existing pipeline that's being updated by its owner Enbridge) are planning for a major escalation this weekend.
From June 5 to 8 the group organizing the demonstrations, called Treaty People, is preparing for potentially thousands of protesters to descend on northern Minnesota. High-profile activists like Jane Fonda will be jetting in (using the very sort of petroleum products made possible by infrastructure like Line 3, ironically enough).
Treaty People is also planning for a not-insignificant amount of illegal activity, per organizing documents I've obtained. These demonstrations are often portrayed, by many in the news media, as peaceful until the cops descend and make mass arrests.
That's exactly the portrayal the activists are angling for.
The truth, one that doesn't often cut through the propaganda noise machines that surround a political endeavor like this one, is that they're well-organized operations aimed specifically at sowing chaos and provoking arrests.
A "logistics guide" being distributed to potential attendees encourages them to participate in "direct action" activities that include interfering with the lawful construction of the pipeline as well as tactics like blocking roads.
The organizers are even holding a training seminar on Sunday, June 6, for those who will engage in these activities, and it's focused on the expectation that participants will be arrested, reassuring them that if this happens they'll have support, right down to payments for their legal fees and even clothing to wear in court.
"There is a high level of community support for defendants — no one goes through the legal process alone. From finding an attorney to being connected to other defendants, to paying for an attorney or paying for clothes to wear to court, to office hours for those with legal cases, there is a resource to support you," the document states.
Illustrating just how completely irresponsible these activities are, the protest organizers are encouraging activists to organize themselves into "affinity groups" that will operate as independent cells without oversight from the organizers themselves.
A recent Zoom meeting held by treating people with hundreds of participants included a slide with a sort of flow chart helping protesters understand what to do if arrested.
It includes contact information for legal coordination — including "low cost" or even "free" representation — and urges the activists to fight their cases and refuse to cooperate with the government.
Another slide instructs participants about dispersal orders and notifications of trespass and warns them not to speak to law enforcement.
These tactics aren't new.
We saw them at the protracted and extremely violent protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline here in North Dakota, where activists would commit acts of vandalism and protest and harassment en masse, overwhelming the local courts and ultimately costing state and local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
But, again, the popular narrative promoted by the activists and often supported by credulous members of the news media is that these demonstrations are peaceful until the cops show up.
That's just not true.
These organizations plan for the arrests. They plan for the activities that will lead to the arrests.
They force law enforcement into a quandary, forced to choose between allowing activists to trespass and harass and disrupt with impunity, or make mass arrests that will almost certainly be portrayed negatively.
Lawful and peaceful demonstrations are an American tradition protected by the First Amendment. We should celebrate that sort of civic action, even when we don't share the goals or views of those demonstrating. But what happened in south-central North Dakota during the DAPL protests, and what is being planned for northern Minnesota and the Line 3 replacement project, is not a peaceful protest.
The organizers aren't even planning for it to be peaceful.
The public needs to be aware of this.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.