Activist Mylene Vialard feels like she’s “on the right side of history” while awaiting sentencing

Mylene Vialard and a partner hang from a 25-foot bamboo tower, in protest of the Line 3 oil pipeline. They were both arrested later that day. All Photos Courtesy of Mylene Vialard.
All Photos Courtesy of Mylene Vialard.

Line 3 is a 1,097 mile tar sands oil pipeline with a long history of spills and massive safety concerns. The line crosses more than 200 water bodies from Alberta, Canada all the way to Wisconsin. Boulder-based water protector Mylene Vialard was arrested in 2021 after attaching herself to a 25-foot bamboo tower – an action of protest against the expansion and rerouting of the pipeline. Earlier this month, on September 1, she was found guilty of felony obstruction. KGNU and Report for America’s Jackie Sedley spoke with Vialard about the arrest, the trial that she says was a “farce,” and her next steps.

 

Listen to their conversation here:

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    30 min Jackie Sedley

 

Mylene Vialard did not know what to expect when she climbed a bamboo metal structure on August 26, 2021. But she knew for certain why she was doing it. Her and her daughter were keeping up with the protests at Standing Rock, a Sioux reservation straddling the North and South Dakota borders. This time, Indigenous people were calling for folks to come stand in solidarity with them in opposition to the expansion and rerouting of Line 3 – a pipeline project headed by the crude oil company Enbridge. She listened to the call, and went to the front lines in Aitkin County, Minnesota. Her and a partner climbed to the top.

“And at the top, we attached ourselves to the structure with a block box  it was just a PVC tube on which was written, ‘indigenous sovereignty and land back,” says Vialard. “The purpose of those lock boxes is really to show that we’re nonviolent. We’re basically not resisting anything. We’re just there locked as it’s a message to the world that we’re not gonna run away or fight or anything like that. We were just locked in and we’re there to make a statement.”

She was arrested that day, while putting her body on the line.

“So on that day, as we were up in the structure looking down, the police came called by the security guard for Enbridge. And they came to the scene and they had also an extracting team, and they started working on the people who were down below us. Eventually, they brought a bucket truck to extract us and they did it pretty roughly and without any attention to their own safety, really. And they were really, really rough with my partner up there. It was kind of painful, and it scared a lot of people who were farther away on the main road.”

Earlier this month, on September 1, Vialard was found guilty for obstructing law enforcement.

Vialard says she was absolutely shocked by how poorly and unfairly things were handled in the courtroom. The prosecutor attacked her citizenship status – to be clear, Vialard was born in France but is an American citizen – and also brought up charges against her that had already been dismissed.

“I was going to be as transparent and as truthful about my purpose and why I did it. I was never really holding my breath and it’s not because I’m guilty – because I’m not. I repeat that. I’m not, I’m not a criminal… There were so many egregious misconducts during this trial that it’s hard for me to take it personally. You know, I’m just like, this is not about me. It’s not about my behavior. It’s about what they think [about] people like me, non-violent protesters in Minnesota… a representative of a group of people who were fighting for their well-being, for the safety of their water, for the safety of fishing.”

Vialard says she would not go back and change her actions if she could.

“I would go through everything again because the community I have is richer than the community I had before, and I feel like I’m on the right side of history, and I don’t want to break the link of all the people who’ve come before us in fighting for the right fights. I’m just an average person.”

Vialard is awaiting sentencing, and she and her lawyers are in talks to appeal the verdict.

“It’s just like absolutely crazy to think that I’m the criminal in this, right? I am the one who was endangering people, when we have whole lives that might be impacted by it. The genocide, the dehumanizing of indigenous people, is still happening today, for the profit of a pipeline, oil and gas – extractive industries that destroy our planet. It’s, it’s really heartbreaking.”

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    30 min Jackie Sedley

Jackie Sedley

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