Campaigners with the Tar Sands Blockade—who have been maintaining tree sits and engaging in civil disobedience against the southern portion of TransCanada's tar sands pipeline in east Texas since last month—celebrated what they called their "biggest day of action yet" on Monday.
As the Winnsboro, Texas tree blockade entered its fourth week, over 50 new supporters broke through police lines in order to bring fresh supplies, including food and water, to the tree-sitters. Despite a newly-expanded "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP)" injunction served to the protesters by local law enforcement agencies, the anti-pipeline activists risked arrest in large numbers.
“They’re saying we might get sued or worse, but stopping this pipeline is too important.” said Glenn Hobbit, 28. Many of the activists continue to use aliases as a security precaution.
“There comes a time when we must make a stand for the future of our children, and for all life on Earth. That time is here. That time is now.” —Tom Wies, opponent of Transcanada's tar sands pipeline
See photos of the day's action here.
The News-Journal in Longview, Texas reports that the SLAPP injunctions are "temporary restraining orders" issued by two state district court judges against the Keystone XL Pipeline protesters in both Wood and Franklin counties.
"The court orders prohibit protesters from interfering with, preventing or obstructing construction of the pipeline being built across private property in the two counties en route to the Gulf Coast," the local paper said. And adds:
The Wood County restraining order was issued last week in 402nd District Court, about the same time a New York Times reporter and photographer were detained near Winnsboro by off-duty police officers hired by a TransCanada contractor.
The pair, reporter Dan Frosch and photographer Brandon Thibodeaux, were released after identifying themselves as members of the press.
The orders and and escalating arrests of protestors highlight increasing efforts by TransCanada to move forward construction that has been stalled for several weeks in some areas. Security measures have been increased, said TransCanada spokesman Dan Dodson, with patrols of pipeline easements day and night.
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Construction has been hampered by protesters who chained themselves to equipment in Franklin County and others in Wood County who have created a maze of tree houses. That protest has been spearheaded by the pipeline opposition group TarSands Blockade.
“Peaceful and nonviolent civil disobedience is one tool in the activist toolkit,” Bill McKibben, a Middlebury College professor who has been one of the leading foes of the Keystone XL, said in an e-mail to the Washington Post regarding the ongoing protest in Texas. “You don’t want to use it all the time because it gets dull. But this is the kind of case for which it’s designed, when you’re up against the wall and truly powerful forces are refusing to listen to reason and just pushing ahead regardless.”
Former New York Times reporter and Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges wrote on Monday that the Keystone pipeline "is part of the final phase of extreme exploitation by the corporate state." If completed, he continued:
It will pump 1.1 million barrels a day of unrefined tar sand fluid from tar sand mine fields in Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. Tar sand oil is not conventional crude oil. It is a synthetic slurry that, because tar sand oil is solid in its natural state, must be laced with a deadly brew of toxic chemicals and gas condensates to get it to flow. Tar sands are boiled and diluted with these chemicals before being blasted down a pipeline at high pressure. Water sources would be instantly contaminated if there was a rupture. The pipeline would cross nearly 2,000 U.S. waterways, including the Ogallala Aquifer, source of one-third of the United States’ farmland irrigation water. And it is not a matter of if, but when, it would spill. TransCanada’s Keystone I pipeline, built in 2010, leaked 12 times in its first 12 months of operation. Because the extraction process emits such a large quantity of greenhouse gases, the pipeline has been called the fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet. The climate scientist James Hansen warns that successful completion of the pipeline, along with the exploitation of Canadian tar sands it would facilitate, would mean “game over for the climate.”
Hedges urged others to join the blockade, and quoted climate activist Tom Weis, who said: “There comes a time when we must make a stand for the future of our children, and for all life on Earth. That time is here. That time is now.”
Ten days ago, a group of over thirty national and international environmental groups, voiced their support for the relatively small group of protesters in east Texas, saying: "If we are determined to prevent the pursuit of extreme energy from destroying our communities, natural systems and climate, then peaceful, yet confrontational, protests like the Tar Sands Blockade are necessary actions for change."
Following Monday's day of action, in which eight of their members were arrested, a statement from Tar Sand Blockade said: "Today’s defiant walk-on protest is the largest in the history of protests surrounding Keystone XL construction and sends a clear signal that we will not be deterred by SLAPP suits and other legal threats to limit our civil liberties."
Noting the increased police presence, including Transcanada's use of off-duty police and sheriff's deputies as hired security guarsds, the group said: "Apparently we’ve been causing some serious delays of Keystone XL tar sands pipeline."
The day of action followed in-depth interviews by Democracy Now! with Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson Ron Seifert, actress and activist Daryl Hannah, and Texas landowner Susan Scott. Watch it here: