The sheriff’s department of Beltrami County in Minnesota, an area embroiled in the struggle between indigenous Anishinaabe populations and tar sands company Enbridge over the construction of a new pipeline on treaty lands and traditional territory, has requested reimbursement from the company for nearly $72,000 worth of riot gear and more than $10,000 in “less than lethal” weapons and ammunition, including tear gas, pepper spray, bean bag and sponge rounds, flash-bang devices, and batons that they have labeled as person protective equipment (PPE), reports The Intercept. The agency maintains an escrow account set up so that Enbridge can reimburse public safety agencies for expenses associated with pipeline construction, especially costs for policing protests.
Thus far, project opponents haven’t seen law enforcement deploy the munitions that were purchased, though sheriff’s offices in half a dozen counties have arrested more than 100 project opponents for attempts to stop construction. “I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination batons could be considered PPE — or grenades,” said Tara Houska, an organizer with the anti-Line 3 Giniw Collective. “Those are obviously militarized equipment to be used to subdue and oppress the Indigenous people and allies that are resisting this project from going through our territory.”