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Artwork by Christi Belcourt. Graphics by Sarah LittleRedfeather

Water Protectors Are Risking Their Lives for Us. What Can We Do to Help Them?

The water protectors protesting Line 3 are risking their lives while their efforts go underreported by national media. Here is how to support them.

The Line 3 pipeline is a controversial oil pipeline expansion currently under construction in Minnesota. The Canadian company, Enbridge, that proposed this expansion was also responsible for the largest inland oil spill in the United States, It’s being built across wetlands that include 227 lakes and rivers, including rivers that feed into Lake Superior. Despite this, there was no independent evaluation of the risk of oil spills in these numerous bodies of water. As is now customary behavior from the United States government, the Army Corps did not consult with the Anishinaabe people about the decision to build this pipeline on treaty-protected lands, nor did they consult with them about the plan to pump 10 times more water away from the construction site than was originally approved. The Anishinaabe people who live there will be severely negatively impacted as the water diversion will affect the wild rice beds which are a staple food. 

Democratic lawmakers and celebrities have called on Biden to halt the construction of the pipeline, but his administration refuses to withdraw federal permits for the $9.3 billion project. But the bulk of the work against this pipeline–and the Keystone pipeline before it–is done through direct action by mostly Indigenous water defenders. Indigenous people in the United States have had their land stolen, their resources depleted, their families disappeared, and more. Still, they fight to protect the land, and the water. 

Water protectors are facing violence as they fight against the construction of the pipeline. Police officers (whose salaries are being paid by Enbridge) have pepper sprayed and shot protestors with rubber bullets. By August 10, 600 people had already been arrested. Protestors who have been jailed report mistreatment at the hands of officers who are denying them proper food and access to necessary medications. 

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What can you do to support them?

Spread the word about Line 3.

As with any issue that involves marginalized people, the Line 3 pipeline’s construction and the protests against it are underreported by the media. Use social media to spread the word about the dangers that pipelines pose to local ecosystems and about Biden’s abuse and betrayal of Indigenous people. Share resources and educational tools with your family and friends. Insist on discussing this issue at the dinner table. You alone may not be able to change the tide, but political education is essential for a reason. The more people know about this egregious threat to the climate, the more people can resist it.

Donate to the water protectors’ legal defense fund. 

Protesting in any capacity carries a great risk of arrest and legal action. This defense fund is providing support for people who have been arrested while protesting Enbridge’s pipeline expansion project. They state that funds will be used to support those who are arrested and prosecuted, helping with expenses incurred throughout the entire legal process including lodging and transportation costs.

Join the water protectors on the front line. 

If after reading about the issue and the risks, you still want to do more, the water protectors are inviting people to come support them on the front lines. If this is an option for you, it is integral that you understand you would be supporting as a guest of the Indigenous people who are organizing these protests. There are guidelines, rules, and expectations of allies (especially white folks) who decide to join the protests. Do not attend if you cannot abide by all of them. Your allyship is not for yourself or for a performance. It is to put your body on the line in service of the protection of the land, the water, and the Indigenous people that protect them. Consider, too, that there is a high risk of police violence and arrest, which make protesting inaccessible for some disabled folks, children, older people, people with previous arrests, or undocumented people. 

Regardless of what you do, now is not the time for inaction. We must step up to support those who are ensuring the protection of one of our most precious resources. Water is life. 

Learn more about Stop Line 3 here

Featured Artwork by Christi Belcourt. Graphics by Sarah LittleRedfeather.

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Reina Sultan is a Lebanese-American Muslim freelance journalist and one of the co-creators of 8 to Abolition. She is a PIC abolitionist and anarcha-feminist working to dismantle systems of white supremacist cisheteronormative patriarchy. Her work can also be found in VICE, Bitch, ZORA, Greatist, Teen Vogue, and more. Follow @SultanReina on Twitter for hot takes and cat photos.

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