Two activists from the Tar Sands Blockade, who ascended to small platforms in tall trees in East Texas Wednesday to protest construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline across Texas, have been arrested, along with three others who stood on the ground in solidarity.
Just after 6:30 p.m. Thursday, police used a cherry-picker to "extract" activist Audrey Campbell from a small platform approximately 60 feet in the air, the group's website states.
Campbell was charged with tampering with public utilities, a state felony, according to local broadcaster KTRE.
A protester named Mike (whose last name was not available) was removed from another tree and arrested at about 10:30 a.m. Friday. Charges were not available Friday morning.
Three others among the 30 people who stood beneath were also arrested for what they termed "standing up to the death machine of industrial extraction."
Among other crimes, those arrested on the ground were charged with 'evading detention'—a Class A felony— according to local news outlet KTRE.
“Protecting the living systems which we’re a part of is a moral necessity,” Audrey said Wednesday in a statement from Tar Sands Blockade. “Extraction of the tar sands is the most destructive project on the continent. It threatens the integrity of the entire biosphere, not to mention the First Nations dependent upon access to clean water, land, and air for the health and food for their tribal communities.”
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, designed to carry toxic tar sands from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
On Thursday morning, police were at the scene just after 9 a.m. Ninety minutes later, "plainclothes officers … chased ground support away from (the) tree blockade," according to the website.
This week's tree-sit followed a similar, 85-day tree-sit near Winnsboro, Texas, and other actions. That protest eventually forced pipeline company TransCanada to re-route the pipeline's southern leg around the tree-sit site. But Tar Sands Blockade said the current site, near Diboli, Texas, was located near barriers such as Highway 59 that would have made it difficult for Keystone to reroute the pipeline.
The Diboli tree-sit was also held "in solidarity" with the Idle No More campaign. That movement has gained support from around the world as Attiwapiskat Chief Theresa Spence continues the fourth week of a hunger strike in a teepee in Ontario. Spence demands a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss First Nations issues including the protection of treaty rights.
"The people who are here protesting today are really incredible and brave," Grace Cagle said of this week's protest in Texas. "I am so inspired by their courage."