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'Making Sacrifices for All of Us,' Indigenous Water Protectors Arrested at Pipeline Company's Shareholder Meeting

"They've shackled grandmothers, used attack dogs on people, lied, stole, bribed, maimed, and poisoned, all over the lands."

Waniya Locke and Cherri Foytlin were arrested in Dallas on Thursday after disrupting Energy Transfer Partners' shareholder meeting to protest the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. (Photo: Indigenous Rising Media/Facebook)

Admired by fellow activists for "making sacrifices for all of us," two Indigenous water protectors were arrested in Dallas on Thursday for demonstrating at a shareholder meeting of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), which is responsible for several contentious fossil fuel projects including the Dakota Access, Bayou Bridge, and Mariner East 2 pipelines.

Waniya Locke and Cherri Foytlin are reportedly facing charges of disorderly conduct for disrupting the meeting to protest the 163-mile Bayou Bridge Pipeline—which, if completed, would haul 480,000 barrels of crude oil daily through Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin, the largest wetland and swamp in the country. Alarmed by the threat to water resources, wildlife, and local communities, landowners and water protectors are battling construction efforts in court and on the ground.

After disrupting the meeting, Locke and Foytlin were detained by police and brought out a back exit. While handcuffed, the pair led a crowd of supporters in a call-and-response chant—"What do you do when your water is under attack? Stand up, fight back!"—before they were forced into the back of a police car.

Watch (footage of the arrests begins at 32:00):

"They've shackled grandmothers, used attack dogs on people, lied, stole, bribed, maimed, and poisoned, all over the lands," Foytlin of the L'eau Est La Vie (Water Is Life) camp in south Louisiana said about the company's behavior and tactics . "From my perspective, [CEO Kelcy] Warren and ETP have well-earned every bit of bad karma that the universe can muster."

Opponents of the Bayou Bridge project have decried the actions of ETP's private security, alleging that in Louisiana, they have "abducted" water protectors to unlawfully deliver them to local police—so they can be charged under a newly enacted state law that criminalizes peaceful protests that interfere with energy infrastructure—and even intentionally sunk boats carrying activists and journalists.

"This is the continued genocide of Indigenous peoples—destroying our homelands, destroying our way of life."
—Waniya Locke, water protector

In addition to his company's hostile response to anti-pipeline activists and contributions to the global climate crisis, Warren has been sharply criticized for his own behavior, including his suggestion at an industry conference earlier this year that anyone who damaged the Dakota Access Pipeline "needs to be removed from the gene pool."

Denouncing the company's dirty energy construction on Indigenous lands, Locke, who also participated in the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline charged, "This is the continued genocide of Indigenous peoples—destroying our homelands, destroying our way of life."

"I saw first hand the devastating impact that the Alaskan pipeline had on my Dené side with the Valdez oil spill and the cancer that affected the bodies of my loved ones in Alaska," she said. "Then at Standing Rock, my Húŋkpapha relatives and I saw first hand the violence of ETP as they forced their pipeline on us."

While Ellen Sue Gerhart, whose land was seized by ETP for the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Pennsylvania, was not arrested on Thursday, she was sentenced earlier this year to serve two months behind bars for peacefully protesting on her own property. Gerhart was forced to leave the shareholder meeting after attempting to discuss her arrest and imprisonment—she and her family say ETP fabricated allegations—as well as the conduct of company security at other pipeline construction sites.

"Unitholders are culpable for the damage and destruction perpetrated by ETP," Gerhart added in a statement. "ETP routinely and blatantly ignores local zoning ordinances, permit requirements, and privacy laws. Any agency who grants permits, any judge who grants eminent domain, any individual or institution that provides financial backing to this company is responsible for ETP's water contamination, destruction of wetlands, and violations of human rights."

The disruptions of ETP's meeting came as Greenpeace released an addendum to a report published in June detailing the company's efforts to "silence opposition."

Despite demands from nonprofits and financial institutions, "the company has not made significant public moves regarding its policies, decision making, or personnel, to show positive changes to its corporate behavior," the new report concluded. Furthermore, its "dismissal of Indigenous rights, aggressive approach to pipeline opponents, and its use of litigation as a means of intimidation, threaten the very fabric of democracy."

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