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Jury Trial of Artist and Cultural Organizer, Shanai Matteson Begins Wednesday in Aitkin County

Artist and Cultural Organizer Shanai Matteson
Artist and Cultural Organizer Shanai Matteson

This Wednesday, artist and cultural organizer, Shanai Matteson of Palisade is going to trial in Aitkin County. Matteson has been charged with gross misdemeanor for allegedly conspiring, aiding, and abetting criminal trespass on critical public infrastructure pipeline during the movement to Stop Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 pipeline. She has pled not guilty to these charges.

Matteson spoke with Heidi Holtan and John Bauer on the KAXE/KBXE Morning Show to explain the charges, describe her experience, and share what's next for the other 800 people who are facing charges related to the opposition to the Line 3 project. Click the "Listen" player above to hear the full conversation.

According to Matteson, the charges stemmed from a livestream video she posted in solidarity with protesters. "My charge is resulting of a live stream video where I spoke here at the Water Protector Welcome Center," she said. "And I spoke about the importance of standing together in solidarity with our waters and with Anishinaabe people who are struggling for their treaty rights to be recognized."

The video is being used as evidence that Matteson conspired, aided, and abetted people who trespassed on the pipeline corridor in a separate incident. Matteson was not present at the incident in question.

For Matteson, the trial is important because she claims she was unfairly targeted by Aitkin County law enforcement through surveillance that was paid for by Enbridge. But the trial has greater significance to Matteson. "I'm just one of 800 people who received charges in the past couple of years for other movement-related actions." she said. "But my concern is really the precedent that this kind of thing sets.

"We're at a time when our climate is in crisis and indigenous rights, womens' rights, our right to peaceful protest are being eroded. And we use social media to speak about the things that we care about, and in my case, social media was used by law enforcement to surveil me and then bring criminal charges for simply making a speech."

Beyond the trial, Matteson mentioned a number of different resources and actions that are being taken on behalf of those charged in conjunction with Line 3 protests. "There's a website that's been put together by defendants in the movement:" Matteson said. "There you can read a letter that's been sent to Governor Walz to appoint Attorney General Ellison to act as special prosecutor in some of the most egregious cases. People are facing felonies, and many of the charges are not being prosecuted equally across the counties. There's also a hashtag #DropTheCharges if you want to see what other people are saying.

"Or you can come to the Aitkin County Courthouse Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 9am. I'll be in trial, but as long as there's room, you're welcome to come in and listen in respectfully. And there will be a rally with food and artwork and solidarity and support.

"There is a pipeline legal action network that's been set up by defendants, and people have been donating to that and that's been helping to support legal charges," Matteson said.

Matteson's trial begins Wednesday, July 13th at 9:00am in Aitkin County Court.

For more information about Matteson's art and work, visit her website here.

Click here to access the Drop Line 3 Charges website.

Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.
John has been listening to KAXE since the early days in 1976, and has worked as our Development Director from 1995-2022. Now semi-retired and writing, sculpting and enjoying the good life, you can hear him on the Morning Show Fridays.