(BEMIDJI, MINN)           Beltrami County Commissioner Craig Gaasvig today called on Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Minnesota Attorney General to reject an effort to have criminal charges dropped against hundreds of people who participated in violent Line 3 protests.  While Line 3 construction work is now complete, more than 900 people were arrested this year for breaking the law while trying to stop the project through what were often violent protests.  Thousands of people have now signed a petition organized by Line 3 opponents that asks for Governor Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison to drop pending criminal charges against the protests.

“Waiving responsibility for what were violent and threatening acts by people who did not care about the impact of their actions is reprehensible,” said Beltrami Commissioner Craig Gaasvig.  “People from around the country came to Minnesota to break the law, threaten workers, and stretch the resources of our first responders.  There needs to be accountability for what happened and asking for charges to be dropped is an insult.  I respect people’s right to share their opinion but there needs to be accountability when it turns to threats and breaking the law.”

More than 60,000 people have signed the online petition and letter that is being organized by the Stop Line 3 group.  The letter makes a false claim that people arrested during the protests are now facing “trumped-up charges.”  In September, Hubbard County Attorney Jonathan Frieden disputed that charges were escalated or out of proportion for the actions.

For months, communities across Northern Minnesota faced well-funded and organized protests that involved vandalism, threatening behavior, as well as people locking themselves to equipment, buildings, or other structures.  First responders and area law enforcement agencies were often forced to spend hours of time cutting protestors free before they could be arrested, taking time away from other important duties.

“Throughout the process to approve and build Line 3, people opposed to the project often acted as if the rules do not apply to them,” Gaasvig said.  “They stormed meetings, threatened regulators, and vandalized equipment. Now they are trying to avoid responsibility for what they did.  I strongly urge Governor Walz and Attorney General Ellison to reject this and show that in Minnesota, we hold people accountable for their actions.”