A group of left-wing demonstrators wearing dark hoods and masks temporarily shut down the Duluth City Council Monday night, as members considered purchasing additional equipment for police officers. The council recessed about ten minutes into their meeting, and councilors waited for the masked agitators to calm down.
This is already the most tense City Council meeting I have been to, and it hasn’t begun. Starts at 7. pic.twitter.com/BamrRbcTQt
— Baihly Warfield WDIO (@BaihlyWDIO) October 22, 2018
This would have been a good time for the police to have cleared all masked protesters out of the building since they were in violation of Minnesota Statute 609.735:
A person whose identity is concealed by the person in a public place by means of a robe, mask, or other disguise, unless based on religious beliefs, or incidental to amusement, entertainment, protection from weather, or medical treatment, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Yet they were allowed to remain, and the activists (some of whom were members of the local NAACP and a left-wing Native American group) continued to shout, “No Line 3! No riot gear for the DPD!”
After about a 25-minute recess, the council came back and voted 6-2 to approve the $84,000 purchase of helmets with visors and elbow and chest pads.
A mixture of both applause and jeers filled the room, according to the Duluth News Tribune, which noted that supporters of the purchase were outnumbered by protesters.
Council President Noah Hobbs said he supported the proposed purchase of protective police gear going into the meeting, and that the protest had no effect on him.
“What is most regrettable is the fact that 50 to 60 individuals didn’t get their three minutes of time to voice their support or their concerns for the agenda item,” he said, in reference to the public comment period which had to be aborted.
But Hobbs said he saw little sense in the council calling it a day and again delaying a vote on the controversial purchase.
“If we did shut it down, we would have had this meeting every day until god knows when,” he said, predicting that such a move would have only resulted in prolonged public rancor.
Protesters erupted with a “No justice. No peace” chant after the vote and continued their protest for more several minutes before dissipating.
According to the Washington Times, area leftists have tied the purchase to the controversial, multibillion-dollar Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project making its way through the Minnesota regulatory system. The anarchists apparently don’t want law enforcement to be able to wear protective gear when they confront their anti-pipeline demonstrations.
The Facebook account of the antifa news aggregator “It’s Going Down” shared a video posted by the far-left Native American group “Anti-colonial Land Defense.” In addition to the “No Line 3” chant, protesters also shouted, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and “Blue lives murder!” A lone counter-protester waved a “thin blue line” police flag.
After leaving the building, protesters took to the streets with their signs and chants.
The News-Tribune reported that the Duluth branch of the NAACP had requested that the council delay the vote for at least two weeks to allow more time for “the Citizens Review Board to analyze the community input” that had been gathered at three separate community forums.
The NAACP said in a statement: “It is imperative that any actions relating to a potential increase in police power happen only after thorough discussion with communities of people of color, American Indians, homeless people, LGBTQ, and others that suffer disproportionate levels of police violence.”
According to MN Public Radio (MPR), Enbridge Energy, the company building the pipeline, says its current Line 3 pipeline was built in the 1960s and needs to be replaced because “it’s corroded and cracked.”
The company wants to build along a new route so it can continue operating the existing Line 3 during construction of the new pipeline. The new route would also move the pipeline off tribal land.