One day after five activists were arrested for blocking construction on energy giant Enbridge's proposed tar sands pipeline in southwest Ontario, community members outside Toronto—taking up the mantle of resistance—faced down police Monday morning as they occupied another Enbridge work site.
Breaking up a blockade at the Line 9 pipeline that began early Tuesday, roughly 50 police stormed the Enbridge construction site near the Thames River on Sunday afternoon, organizers told Common Dreams, arresting two activists who had chained their arms to concrete barrels and three others who were there to support those on lock down.
The protest was organized to halt a valve installation on the pipeline, which protesters said would only serve as a"band-aid" on the aging infrastructure and would not protect vital water sources against a leak of toxic diluted bitumen. Line 9 is one of the many proposed pipeline projects slated to carry tar sands and fracked Bakken shale oil to the east coast for export. In March, the Canadian government approved Enbridge's plans to reverse the pipeline's flow and increase its capacity.
“This construction project is a band-aid attempt and Line 9 is too old and damaged to operate safely," says Sarah Scanlon, who was among the protesters. "The new valves aren’t designed to protect rivers, they’re designed to maximize the amount of bitumen that can flow through the line.” According to the group, Enbridge has identified more than 12,000 flaws in Line 9’s structure, and the line has already leaked at least 35 times in less than 40 years.
At a second Line 9 work site, protesters halted construction near the G. Ross Lord Reservoir in North York outside Toronto early Monday. Activists posted pictures online of pipelines patched with duct tape, writing: "Pipeline coatings do not inspire confidence in safety." According to reports, police have arrived on the scene.
Protesting in solidarity with those facing court hearings on Monday, the North York blockaders vow that they will continue to hold similar actions.
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The blockaders say that the Line 9 project is just a small piece of a much larger problem. “This is not about pipelines versus rail; it’s about harmful resource extraction as a whole," said Wolfgang Chrapko, who was one of the five arrested at the Thames River blockade in Innerkip. "Tar sands and fracking related industries are environmentally and economically unsustainable.”
As the organizers noted in their press statement, the extraction and refinement of tar sands requires mass deforestation, irreversible water contamination, climate-changing carbon emissions, and toxic industrial waste. "The tar sands are killing people and environments every day on a local and global scale," they write.
According to witnesses, after being served an injunction by Oxford County police Sunday afternoon demanding that the protesters leave the site immediately, Chrapko and Dave Vasey locked their arms within cement barrels and, along with a third protester, were surrounded by fencing. Two other land defenders remained at the site to support the group after coming to an agreement with a police liaison that they would not be arrested. Ignoring the agreement, police arrested the three supporters and eventually Vasey and Chrapko after "hammer drilling" them out of their hold.
Over the weekend, roughly 60 people gathered at the Thames River blockade for a concert held in support of the action. Called "Tunes Against the Tar Sands," five local acts from communities along the Line 9 route performed while environmental groups shared information on the proposed project.