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Three kayaktivists who oppose the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana were charged with felonies Thursday under a new state law that criminalizes peaceful protests of fossil fuel projects. (Photo: L'eau Est La Vie/Facebook)

Anti-Pipeline Kayaktivists Hit With Felony Charges Under Louisiana's New ALEC-Inspired Law That Criminalizes Protest

Activists battling the pipeline project say the fossil fuel company's private security "abducted" the kayakers before they were charged by police

Jessica Corbett

Three kayaktivists who oppose construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline—the tail end of Energy Transfer Partner's Dakota Access Pipeline—are reportedly the first people to be charged with felonies under a new Louisiana law that, like a model bill crafted by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), criminalizes peaceful protests of fossil fuel projects.

The collective of activists fighting against the pipeline—who have created the L'eau Est La Vie (Water Is Life) floating resistance camp—said on Twitter Thursday that three kayakers were "abducted" by the pipeline company's private security while boating through public waterways, and then arrested.

"Our water protectors were breaking no laws as they were using their kayaks in navigable public waters, a protected right in Louisiana. Moreover, corporate private security should have not have the power to abduct and detain people," L'eau Est La Vie Camp declared on Facebook.

The activist group urged supporters to contact the St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Department—to "ask why they are letting ETP henchmen snatch our people, and demand that they stop bowing down to ETP's orders"—and noted that although the kayakers were released by Thursday evening, they are now facing felony charges.

According to the St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office Facebook page, which posts daily arrest reports, three people were arrested Thursday and charged with "unauthorized entry of a critical infrastructure" and "resisting an officer." One of them was also charged with "interfering with a law enforcement investigation."

Will Parrish, who wrote about Louisiana's ALEC-inspired House Bill 727 for The Intercept earlier this year, said the trio is the first to face felony charges under the new law, which took effect Aug. 1.

As Parrish and Alleen Brown reported in March, after the measure was introduced in the state legislature:

The proposed law appears to be designed to intimidate the array of groups working to halt construction of the 163-mile oil pipeline, which cuts through a sensitive wetland where Louisiana crawfish are harvested. The groups—including the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Bold Louisiana, and the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper—have worked together despite varying goals that range from preserving sensitive habitats and lessening the impact of climate change to defending property rights and protecting the local crawfishing industry.

"I think it shows how very deeply this industry has our state government by the throat," Cherri Foytlin, a member of the indigenous women's advisory council for the anti-Bayou Bridge L'eau Est La Vie (Water Is Life) Camp, said of the new legislation. "That they would sacrifice the citizens of South Louisiana, who are trying to protect their water, by criminalizing them over companies like Energy Transfer Partners."

Following the arrests on Thursday, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben expressed his support for the ongoing protests, tweeting, "this pipeline fight in Louisiana is crucial."

L'eau Est La Vie Camp announced on Facebook that "in the coming days we will be sharing video and testimonies of the incident," and issued "an open call for all water protectors, kayaktivists, radical sailors, and water going folk to join us on the frontlines" in the fight against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.

This post has been updated to clarify the origin of two L'eau Est La Vie Camp comments.


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