Protesters clash with police at Enbridge pipeline construction site in Minnesota

PARK RAPIDS, Minn., June 7 (Reuters) - Environmental protesters clashed with police on Monday while occupying a pump station on Enbridge Inc’s Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota, according to a Reuters witness, while Enbridge said it evacuated 44 workers from its site.

Line 3, which entered service in 1968, ships crude from Canadian province of Alberta to U.S. Midwest refiners, and carries less oil than it was designed for because of age and corrosion. The pipeline is key to landlocked Alberta’s efforts to boost crude exports from its oil sands.

Pipeline opponents say they stand in solidarity with indigenous communities concerned about risks the line poses to their rivers and lakes.

Organizers of the protests in Hubbard County said the demonstrations were the largest resistance to date against Line 3. The clashes came after a peaceful march early on Monday that drew hundreds of people.

Between 50-100 demonstrators occupied a pump station and barricaded the entrances, chanting “Keep it in the ground” and “Stop Line 3”. At one point a police helicopter flew hovered low over activists, sending dust and debris flying.

Enbridge and opponents are waiting for a ruling from the Minnesota Court of Appeals, due by June 21, on whether there is sufficient evidence of crude oil demand to justify replacing Line 3.

“We respect everyone’s right to peacefully and lawfully protest, but trespass, intimidation, and destruction are unacceptable,” Enbridge said in a statement. (Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by David Gregorio)