State of Intimidation

Yesterday’s article was about ‘Treaties Not Tar Sands’ which summarized the Treaty People Walk for Water. Walkers arrived at the Minnesota Capitol grounds yesterday, ending a 200+ mile walk from the Mississippi headwaters, an effort to draw attention to the state-approved Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. Isn’t it ironic that Enbridge says Line 3 is needed to replace the old pipeline because it isn’t safe any longer?

It is disheartening but unsurprising to hear about the large police response to the peaceful gathering of water protectors. Despite their unconstitutionality, many laws have been passed to criminalize protest. Felony penalties for damage to ‘critical infrastructure’ such as pipelines.

In Iowa last year several activists were banned from the grounds of the Iowa State Capitol because of their participation in rallies against police violence, ironically. That ban was later declared illegal.

Renee Keezer speaks to the crowd at Wednesday’s ‘Treaties Not Tar Sands’ rally.

What’s wrong with this picture? It implies a significant and violent threat where there was none.

The ‘Treaties Not Tar Sands’ rally at the Capitol Wednesday drew 1,000 to 2,000 people. It was a beautiful and powerful event. I will write more about it in the coming days. It deserves more attention.

Tonight, I’m focusing on law enforcement’s massive and intimidating response — and how rally-goers responded.

At one point I counted 33 officers on or near the front steps of the Capitol. And there were many others spread out around the Capitol complex.

The question is: Why is it when large numbers of black and brown people show up for some event, law enforcement feels compelled to use a show of force?

Given all the racial tensions around policing, law enforcement had to know this approach was bad optics. It did it anyway. That means law enforcement either had little concern about making people feel unwelcome, scared, and/or angry, or in fact that was the intention.

Arriving at the Capitol on Tuesday, I was surprised to see two law enforcement officers guarding the Capitol’s west wing. It was barricaded and fenced. No one was anywhere near this entrance. Yet there they were.

Later Tuesday, law enforcement brought in more concrete barricades. I’m curious what those barricades accomplished, as they are easy to hop over. Was law enforcement worried people would try to drive their cars or pick-up trucks up the stairs? The streets already were blocked.

That concrete represents a lot of fear.

Water protectors are used to dealing with police who view them as criminals. Law enforcement was present at Enbridge construction sites up north because Enbridge was paying them to be there as private security.

This ubiquitous police presence is a form of violence. It intimidates. It undermines people’s sense of safety and belonging. It sends the message that law enforcement thinks you’re dangerous.

State of Intimidation: Minnesota law enforcement’s in-your-face approach to ‘Treaties Not Tar Sands’ rally, Healing Minnesota Stories, August 26, 2021


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