PALISADE, Minn. — Opponents of the Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project gathered Saturday, Jan. 9, in northern Minnesota to protest its construction across northern Minnesota.

By mid-morning, a couple hundred people had gathered near Palisade in Aitkin County, where the controversial pipeline Enbridge Energy is building is expected to cross under the Mississippi River.

Opponents of the project, who call themselves water protectors, carried signs and walked down a county road. Some Native women danced in jingle dresses, a healing tradition.

"It certainly feels really beautiful to be out here today,” said Tara Houska, a tribal attorney and founder of Giniw Collective, a Native group fighting the project. “There's a lot of folks that came to bring their prayers and to stand for the rivers for our future generations against big oil."

Protesters interrupt construction on the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline project north of Aitkin, Minn., on Saturday, Jan. 9. Led by Native women, people occupied a site where pipes were being installed until sheriff's deputies ordered them to leave or face arrest. (Ben Hovland for MPR News)
Protesters interrupt construction on the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline project north of Aitkin, Minn., on Saturday, Jan. 9. Led by Native women, people occupied a site where pipes were being installed until sheriff's deputies ordered them to leave or face arrest. (Ben Hovland for MPR News)

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The group later traveled to just south of Hill City, where they blocked traffic on U.S. Highway 169. Eight people were arrested; law enforcement officials said seven people were booked on possible charges of gross misdemeanor trespass on critical infrastructure, and the eighth person was cited and released for failing to leave an unlawful assembly.

Enbridge Energy started construction on the 338-mile pipeline in December after receiving the necessary permits. Opponents have filed a federal suit seeking to halt construction on the project.

The pipeline construction project is expected to employ more than 4,000 skilled workers. Supporters say it will bring additional tax revenue to northern Minnesota in a slow economy.