Gov. Tim Walz (D-MN) faced his first test Monday just hours after being sworn in when protesters opposed to the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline project disrupted his reception at the State Capitol.
This isn’t the first time anti-pipeline activists have caused a public disruption. In November, they shut down a performance in Minneapolis after the Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously in favor of approving the project to replace Line 3.
Activists say that replacing the aging pipeline, which crosses through northern Minnesota, could present the risk of an oil spill in the Mississippi River, and will contribute to climate change by adding high rates of carbon to the atmosphere.
Now former Gov. Mark Dayton (D-M) made a last minute appeal of the project in December through his Department of Commerce, which said that Enbridge “failed to provide a future demand forecast for its product.”
On Monday, activists with Stop Line 3 and Cooperation Northfield disrupted Walz while he delivered a speech to a crowd gathered at the State Capitol after his inauguration. The protesters began by draping banners from the Capitol rotunda containing riffs on his campaign slogan of “One Minnesota.”
“Hey, Tim. We only have one Minnesota. Stop Line 3,” one banner stated. “Tim Walz, how will you stop Line 3?”
Chants of “stop line 3” and “keep it in the soil, can’t drink oil” interrupt Gov Walz at Minnesota State Capitol. Walz tells crowd “give us a chance, we’ve been in office 3 hours” #tptAlmanac @tpt pic.twitter.com/9x7R1hM9fj
— Mary Lahammer (@mlahammer) January 7, 2019
Demonstrators proceeded to interrupt Walz with repeated chants of “stop Line 3” and “keep it in the soil, can’t drink oil.” Walz managed to temporarily subside the protesters by agreeing to speak with them after his address.
A video of the exchange posted to Facebook by the Stop Line 3 organization shows that Walz approached the activists after his speech, but they were mostly unwilling to compromise.
“Does it matter to anyone that on the day of inauguration I will make special consideration and stand right here in front of all of you? Instead of being questioning of my integrity on whether I’m listening or not is not the way to change process,” Walz said, noting that he’d only been in office for two hours.
He told the group of demonstrators that he would meet with them at a later date and asked them to get on his schedule, but they responded by claiming that they “don’t have that type of time” and demanded an immediate answer on whether he would stop the project.
“Well, I’m sorry I can’t. Then I will fail you in that,” he responded as one protester began shouting that the freshly inaugurated governor “has failed the indigenous people and has failed the people of Minnesota.”
Cooperation Northfield later celebrated the disruption on Twitter, proudly proclaiming that they “disrupted Tim Walz’s inauguration celebration today at the Capitol.”
Our Northfield Against Line 3 group disrupted Tim Walz's inauguration celebration today at the Capitol. When we say "hold politicians accountable" we actually mean it. If they wanna kill the planet then we're here to make life hard for them. Join us to actually #StopLine3 pic.twitter.com/UQBi4MTVL8
— Cooperation Northfield (@CoopNorthfield) January 8, 2019
“When we say ‘hold politicians accountable’ we actually mean it. If they [want to] kill the planet then we’re here to make life hard for them. Join us to actually stop Line 3,” the group said.
“Another powerful action by water protectors happening now. One way or another, people power will stop this pipeline,” Power Shift Network wrote in response to the demonstration, while some Republicans called it an “interesting early test for Walz.”
— Power Shift Network (@powershiftnet) January 8, 2019
“Will he side with extreme protesters to throw up roadblocks or allow Line 3 to proceed through the process?” asked Minnesota House GOP Director of Public Affairs Andrew Wagner.
— Andrew Wagner (@andrewwagner) January 7, 2019
On the campaign trail, Walz expressed support for the project and said “we need to follow the process in place.” He also advocated for requiring Enbridge to obtain a “social permit,” which he described as a vote of confidence from local officials, landowners, and environmentalists.
“So you don’t get these situations where people feel like their concerns were never heard,” he said in October.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Tim Walz” by Tim Walz.
Background Photo “Tim Walz Protesters” by Cooperation Northfield.