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Common Dreams

Woman Arrested Blocking Trucks for "Pipeline of Death"

Tar Sands Blockade marks one month of direct action against Keystone XL pipeline

Common Dreams staff

Putting her body on the line and citing solidarity with the efforts of others trying to block construction of tar sands pipelines in the US and Canada, Cherri Foytlin—wife of a Gulf coast oil worker and mother of six from Louisiana—chained herself to a gate at the Keystone XL pipeline storage yard in Winfield, Texas this morning and refused to move.

For nearly an hour, sitting next to a large banner reading "Defend All Coasts", Foytling blocked six large trucks from leaving the yard. Ultimately, Foytlin's chains were severed by sheriff deputies with bolt cutters and she was immediately placed under arrest.

“This pipeline is a project of death," Foytlin declared. "From destructive tar sands development that destroy indigenous sovereignty and health at the route’s start to the toxic emissions that will lay further burden on environmental justice communities along the Gulf of Mexico, this pipeline not only disproportionately affects indigenous frontline communities but its clear that it will bring death and disease to all in its path.”

Foytlin's personal action coincides with the Defend Our Coast activities in British Columbia this week, where more than 60 Canadian communities are protesting a proposed tar sands pipeline through their region. Her arrest also comes as members of the Tar Sands Blockade marked one month of sustained actions in the form of a tree-sit protest and ongoing acts of civil disobedience have tried to block construction of Keystone through Winnsboro, Texas.

In an op-ed that appeared on Common Dreams on Tuesday, Foytlin said of those in Winnsboro:

The Tar Sands Blockade has been vigilant in their campaign of non-violent protest of this pipeline, and in doing so, these modern day patriots have also been protecting our freedoms. By building and refusing to leave tree house villages, chaining themselves to equipment, and working with landowners who wish to meritoriously exercise their right of ownership, they have valiantly defended our Gulf Coast, as well as our nation's constitution.

Ramsey Sprague, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson, said in a statement that Foytlin's act of civil disobedience was in direct harmony with his group's efforts and those taking place in British Columbia against the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.

“From the Pacific Coast to the Gulf Coast, Tar Sands Blockade acts in solidarity with all communities and indigenous people rising up to defend their homes from toxic tar sands pipelines," Sprague said. "The refinery communities of the Gulf Coast have historically been and continue to be treated as collateral damage by industry and now landowners from Canada to Texas are learning that reality, too.”

He added, “From start to finish, tar sands development only further endangers communities already at far greater risk for death and disease from toxic environmental exposure to human-made chemical pollutants than communities further away from the petroleum refineries and the unconscionable mining operations that define their origins.”

Prior to today's action, Foytlin prepared the following statement to be released in the event of her arrest:

By the time you read this I will be actively engaged in a non-violent direct action designed to bring awareness to the construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline, to this country's continuing use of our cherished Gulf Coast as the nation's energy sacrifice zone, and in defense of our Mother Earth.

Having spent the last several days with Gulf Coast communities that will be adversely affected by this disastrous project and after visiting with residents whose efforts to protect their communities, their land and their ecosystems through civil discourse and through the exercise of their constitutional rights and freedoms have been repeatedly denied, I am convinced that the choice to use our bodies as a shield in order to amplify the call for protection is indeed necessary. 

It is time for us to take a stand, to take action, to join with our Texas neighbors and with our brothers and sisters from across the country, from Canada and from around the globe to say, "no more!" 

Today I stand as a Gulf Coast resident and in solidarity with the Defend Our Coast activities in British Columbia, where more than 60 Canadian communities are protesting a proposed tar sands pipeline through their region. We must, as a unified voice, defend all coasts and all regions from toxic tar sands pipelines. 

The Gulf Coast is not our nation's sacrifice zone! We will not, cannot, sit idly by while our freedoms are trampled by a foreign corporation, we will not, cannot risk our children's air, water and land for empty promises of "energy independence" or "jobs" or in the name of "progress". 

I come to you today, to ask you to join us – the Tar Sand Blockade, Rising Tide North Texas, and others, in our mission, and to solidify the Gulf regional voice.

I know that many of you may be unable at this time to join me in Texas or to commit to acts of non-violent action, yet there are other ways to support this mission. 

However you choose to support, every action is needed.   

By taking action, it is our hope that environmental justice communities across the Gulf will be brought into the national spotlight in conjunction with this highly publicized event.

In closing, I would like to add that it is an honor to serve with you. I am proud of all of your work. Who knows what this action will yield, but I do know that this is our time to make a righteous commitment to each other and to our regional movement for justice for our historically overburdened environmental justice communities, for the people and ecosystems that continue to suffer the effects of the BP disaster, for the health of our communities, and for the people and ecosystems of our Gulf Coast. 

God be with you.

In solidarity,

Cherri Foytlin 

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