No explosives found at Line 3 protest, but authorities investigating if device was used to cause fear

Brady Slater, Duluth News Tribune, Minn.
·4 min read

Feb. 20—Authorities determined no explosives were found Friday in a suspicious package thrown into a pipeline construction area west of Cloquet. But Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake said the investigation wasn't over, and that state statutes and federal regulations address the placement of replica devices used to cause fear or panic.

"We will push for the maximum charging and penalties for everyone involved in these types of crimes," Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake said in a news release.

No arrests have been reported, and federal and regional authorities have been called in to assist. The incident resulted in the evacuation of 40 residents within a half-mile of the incident on Ditchbank Forest Road. Investigators are following up on a number of leads generated at the scene, the Carlton County Sheriff's Office news release said.

While authorities waited for a bomb squad, members of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa had seen enough.

They started blocking protesters known as "water protectors" from reaching their camp located on Magney Drive.

"It's getting dangerous out here," one woman said, declining to give her name and referring the News Tribune to Danielle Martineau, 42, who was leading a group of tribal members, many of them school-age, as it confronted protesters and stood outside the entrance to the camp, calling for it to break up and telling protesters to go home.

"I'm very upset," Martineau said. "People are scared. It's time to draw the line."

Authorities blocked the entrance to nearby Ditchbank Forest Road, off Big Lake Road, for a few hours while they waited for a bomb squad. Authorities released people back to their homes shortly after 5 p.m.

The Sheriff's Office said "careful examination" determined the device "was not an explosive agent."

Martineau is the sister of Taysha Martineau, a founder of Camp Migizi, a gathering place for opponents of Enbridge Line 3 not far from the incident location.

Taysha Martineau told the News Tribune she wasn't at the protest, but said the allegations of a bomb were untrue.

"We do not own any explosives. We do not believe in endangering anybody's lives. We would not put anyone in a position where they're in immediate risk or danger," Martineau said.

A protester at the camp, Alex Golden-Wolf, 25, said tribal members blocking entrance to the camp were upset at the wrong people.

"We're here to protect their land," said Golden-Wolf, who said she was a member of the White Earth Nation in northwestern Minnesota.

But Danielle Martineau said enough was enough. The pipeline has been approved, she said, and some tribal members are part of the crews working on the project. The presence of the water protectors and their regular protest actions was disruptive to the community, especially elders and children, she said.

"Unless they have a Fond du Lac ID like this one," Danielle Martineau said, holding up her identification card, "they're not getting through."

The Carlton County Sheriff's Office asked people to evacuate the area west of Cloquet and north of Big Lake after the suspicious package was thrown in the area of protest opposed to Enbridge's Line 3 oil pipeline.

The affected area includes the space between Mission Road and Cary Road as well as north of Big Lake Road. The public was being asked to stay away from the area.

The Perch Lake Town Hall, 2779 Big Lake Road, was being used as a shelter for those who needed to evacuate, but only one woman and her two young children were found there.

"I just wanted to keep my cool for my children," said Willow Councillor, 28, who was escorted to the town hall by authorities who asked her to leave her home.

At 11:59 a.m. Friday, the Fond du Lac Police Department responded to a protest blocking Ditchbank Forest Road, according to a release from the sheriff's office. As people were leaving the area, dispatch received a call saying that three people had thrown a suspicious package and left the area.

Camp Migizi is located near the crossing where the bomb threat was called in.

Enbridge spokesperson Juli Kellner said in a statement that workers called in the "suspicious device" and that all pipelines along the route were shut down out of caution. Operations have since restarted, the company said in a statement. Workers observed the suspicious package being thrown into an open pipe and then quickly driving away from the scene, Kellner said.

"This incident disrupted not just a pipeline and the delivery of energy, but the lives of real people," Kellner said. "This is unacceptable and we will seek to prosecute those involved to the full extent of the law."

News Tribune reporters Jimmy Lovrien and Andee Erickson contributed to this story.

This story has been repeatedly updated with additional details from law enforcement and original reporting. It was originally posted at 2:52 p.m. on Feb. 19.