For Immediate Release
Over 50 Enter Tar Sands Blockade Tree Village in Defiance of Police and Legal Repression to Defend Tree-Sitters
Risking arrest, lawsuits protesters rally for massive tree blockade after expansion of TransCanada's overreaching SLAPP suit
WINNSBORO, TEXAS - Following a weekend of nonviolent civil disobedience training in North Texas by Tar Sands Blockade, many dozens of protesters and supporters are rallying today at the site of the largest and longest tree sit in Texas history to stage the largest walk-on site protest and civil disobedience in the history of Keystone XL pipeline construction. Several individuals are defending the tree sitters and the trees by locking themselves to construction equipment being used in proximity to the forest blockade. Solidarity actions are also taking place in Washington DC, Boston, Austin and New York City.
Altogether more than 50 blockaders are risking arrest to stop Keystone XL construction and bring attention to TransCanada's repression of journalists attempting to cover the blockaders' side of the story. They are joined by dozens of supporters who are rallying on public property with colorful banners and signs alongside the easement's closest highway crossing. A massive media team is in tow to document the day of action and any possible police repression.
As the Winnsboro tree blockade enters its fourth week, the blockaders are resupplying their friends in the trees with fresh food, water, and cameras to further document their protest despite the threat of a newly-expanded Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) by TransCanada and egregious criminal overcharges by local law enforcement. Due to the SLAPP suits' outrageous claims, the tree sitters have by-and-large felt too threatened to safely reveal their identities, despite their protest being nonviolent. That the defiant walk-on protest is the largest yet attempted in the history of protests surrounding Keystone XL construction sends a clear signal that the blockaders will not be deterred by SLAPP suits and other legal threats to limit their civil liberties.
“Three weeks is a long time to be sitting in a tree. The training I got this weekend has me ready to rise up and join the sitters in defending Texas homes from the toxic tar sands,” shared Glenn Hobbit, 28. “They're saying we might get sued or worse, but stopping this pipeline is too important.”
Last week, the multinational corporation opened a civil suit in which it named 19 individual defendants, 3 organizations, and 6 anonymous tree sitters for a total of 28 defendants seeking an injunction, declaratory relief, and damages. All the named defendants are former arrestees of Tar Sands Blockade actions with the exception of media spokesperson Ron Seifert, who has yet been arrested in connection with a protest, and area landowner Eleanor Fairchild, who acted independently with activist and actor Daryl Hannah. Hannah was not named in the suit.
Tar Sands Blockade is a coalition of Texas and Oklahoma landowners and climate justice organizers using peaceful and sustained civil disobedience to stop the construction of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
“In reality, Tar Sands Blockade is not trespassing on TransCanada's property. Many of TransCanada's easement contracts were brokered through fraud and intimidation, and their entire legal foundation is being challenged in the courts for those reasons,” explained Ron Seifert, Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson. “If anything TransCanada is trespassing on the property of landowners who never wanted anything to do with their dangerous tar sands pipeline.”