Tar Sands Blockade Marks One Month of Resistance Against Keystone XL
The tree blockade outside Winnsboro, Texas has successfully held it’s steadfast position in the pathway of Keystone XL for one entire month! Today’s milestone reminds us that everyday has been a story of perseverance in the face of mounting odds. Below is a day-by-day account of the blockade’s sustained resistance to the tar sands over the last month.
On Sept. 24, eight brave blockaders climbed into 80-foot trees and refused to come down until the tar sands pipeline was stopped for good. Today two blockaders remain as the others have been arrested or escaped to help organize the growing campaign across the region.
During the last month TransCanada has tried everything to deter us from doing what we know is right. They’ve encouraged police to use torture tactics, operated heavy machinery dangerously close to peaceful protestors, confiscated our cameras, hit us with a SLAPP law suit, hired local law enforcement to set up a police state around the blockade, denied us food and water, arrested journalists, subjected blockades to 24/7 surveillance and floodlights … the list goes on.
Despite this barrage of repression, last week we held our biggest action yet when more than 50 people bravely defied TransCanada’s police state and entered the tree blockade to supply our friends with essential food and water. After eight arrests we shut down construction operations at the site for the entire day and managed to get some more supplies to our friends in the trees. Demonstrate your support with a generous donation for additional supplies.
Our movement has continued to grow with the pledged solidarity of more than 40 organizations, major press coverage in New York Times, Washington Post, Fort Worth Weekly, LA Times and solidarity actions springing up across the country.
Today it appears TransCanada is planning to circumvent its original easement contract and build its toxic pipeline around the west side of the tree blockade. The two remaining tree blockaders have made it clear that they have no intention of coming down yet. They wish to remain in the path of Keystone XL’s destruction long enough for their actions to strategically prevent its construction and demonstrate to the world the threat of this dirty, dangerous pipeline to our communities.
Check out this great video from our friend Tom Weis at Ride for Renewables:
Day-by-day Account of the Blockade’s Sustained Resistance to the Tar Sands Over the Last Month:
Day 1 – Monday, Sept. 24: Eight people climb 80 feet into trees near Winnsboro, Texas and blockaders have pledged not to come down until the pipeline is stopped for good. Blockaders unfurl a banner saying, “You Shall Not Pass!” in the path of Keystone XL construction.
“Today I climbed a tree in the path of Keystone XL to demand TransCanada stop construction of this dirty and dangerous pipeline. This pipeline is a disaster for everyone it touches, from the cancer tar sands extraction is causing indigenous communities, to the water poisoned by inevitable tar sands spills, to the landowners whose land has been seized, and to everyone that will be affected by climate change,” said Mary Washington, one of the Tar Sands Blockade members sitting in a tree.
The same day, TransCanada unloads machinery and begins clear-cutting toward the blockade. One piece of heavy machinery was found flipped over less than a day into clear-cutting.
Day 2 – Tuesday, Sept. 25: Shannon Beebe and Benjamin Franklin lock themselves to a piece of heavy machinery to prevent it from reaching to the tree blockade. Under the active encouragement from TransCanada local police employ torture tactics on both peaceful protestors. They twist and contort the tube that the blockaders had locked their arms into, cutting off circulation to their hands and cutting abrasions into their hands and forearms. Police discharge pepper spray into their lockdown tube, and the chemicals burn their already-open wounds. Despite the immense pain, our brave blockaders remain locked to the machinery for several hours–determined to stop this toxic tar sands pipeline. Both protestors are then tased by police officers and congratulated on a “job well done” by TransCanada’s senior supervisors. Shannon and Benjamin are eventually removed and arrested when it is clear that TransCanada is willing to do whatever it takes to increase pain levels to physically unbearable levels.
Day 3 – Wednesday, Sept. 26: Another joins the tree village in protest of torture tactics against fellow protestors. Blockaders stop clear-cutting machinery, or feller bunchers, and a TransCanada worker refuses to turn off his machine in accordance with federal safety regulations. TransCanada’s machinery operators drop trees dangerously close to blockaders, endangering their lives.
Day 4 – Thursday, Sept. 27: Blockaders continue to stop some clear-cutting machines, and TransCanada workers continue to disregard federal safety regulations in full view of TransCanada supervisors who simply watch with video cameras. Other feller bunchers cut as close as 20 feet to the blockade.
Day 5 – Friday, Sept. 28: Helicopters circle the blockade as sheriffs and private security walk around the site. TransCanada operates heavy machinery 60 feet away from the tree blockade. Bulldozers begin plowing a driveway up to the tree blockade, creating vibrations that shake all the blockaders in the trees. Multiple sheriffs arrive on four-wheelers for security lockdown.
More than 20,000 sign a petition sponsored by national allies in 24-hours, denouncing police violence against the protestors.
Day 6 – Saturday, Sept. 29: Workers arrive on site with police in the morning and begin clear-cutting trees. As folks in the trees endure rain, blockaders on the ground force a clear-cutting machine approaching the tree blockade to shut down its engine. They get in the way of machines throughout the day. Clear-cutting machinery then retreats, thanks to the efforts of the blockaders.
Day 7 – Sunday, Sept. 30: A 36-hour rainfall stops, and a petition to stop violent acts on blockaders is signed by 73,000 people.
Day 8 – Monday, Oct. 1: Alejandro de la Torre locks himself to an underground capsule in the pathway of the Keystone XL clear-cut to defend a family farm. He states, “I’m here to stand up for people on the front lines because they’re being trampled to make way for corporate profits.” Police cover him with a tarp so no one can see how they are removing him and confiscate cameras from bystanders on private property. Alejandro is removed and arrested for helping to save a family farm; his bail set at $10,000.
TransCanada machines are cutting dangerously close to the tree blockade again, swinging felled trees like a bat at scaffolding ropes. The situation then de-escalates when TransCanada machines start cutting to the west side of the wall, which is outside the designated pipeline easement.
Day 9 – Tuesday, Oct. 2: Maggie Gorry climbs atop a 40-foot pole in the middle of the Keystone XL clear cut near the tree blockade. She stops construction for the day as floodlights are pointed at her all night when TransCanada implements its 24-hour security. Alejandro de la Torre is released from jail.
Day 10 – Wednesday, Oct. 3: Maggie stays strong for the second day in a row and delays clear-cutting at the tree blockade. Workers use chainsaws and wood chippers chewing up felled wood near the tree blockade leaving a barren landscape behind. TransCanada continues 24-hour security measures. Police presence increases with off-duty officers being paid as TransCanada security at $30 per hour.
Day 11 – Thursday, Oct 4: Maggie descends her pole blockade and is arrested after sitting on top and successfully blocking construction for 2 days. Tree blockaders endure 24-hour police presence, cameras, and spotlights. Maggie released from jail on $11,000 bail.
Day 12 – Friday, Oct. 5: Eleanor Fairchild, 78-year-old great-grandmother and landowner, and actress and activist Daryl Hanna are arrested on Eleanor’s land after stand in front of machinery to stop clear cutting on Fairchild Farms. TransCanada charges Eleanor with criminal trespassing on her own land.
Day 13 – Saturday, Oct. 6: Two off duty police being paid by TransCanada to act as security, take a ladder off private property and climb the timber scaffolding where two freelance journalists, Elizabeth and Lorenzo, are embedded with the tree blockade. Both officials refused to identify themselves when asked for their name and badge number as they record audio and video via live stream to the web.
Day 14 – Sunday, Oct. 7: Tree blockaders observe TransCanada continuing to cut a path around the west side of the tree blockade, large enough for the pipeline.
Day 15 – Monday, Oct. 8: Occupants in the tree blockade holding strong on their platforms.
The rest of Tars Sands Blockade begins preparations for the Action Camp from Oct. 12-15.
Day 16 – Tuesday, Oct. 9: Elizabeth and Lorenzo, journalists who were embedded in the tree blockade, announce to the police that they were going to come down from the tree blockade just before sunset. Four camouflaged police officers emerged from the tree line and surround the timber scaffolding. Wearing his press credentials Lorenzo is arrested after climbing down and proclaims, “I’m a journalist!” Both journalists were taken off site and charged with criminal trespassing.
Day 17 – Wednesday, Oct. 10: Elizabeth and Lorenzo, live streamers and journalists, are released from jail with all charges dropped since they were representing the press.
Day 18 – Thursday, Oct. 11: Lifelong Texan, Kevin Redding, climbs a tree in a nature preserve to Stop XL Pipeline and refuses to come down. The police arrive to guard the site and escort all other ground support for him. Police then accuse Kevin of being a “terrorist” since he is “endangering a waterway.”
Two journalists from the New York Times are handcuffed and detained on private property while trying to cover the tree blockade.
Day 19 – Friday, Oct. 12: Kevin is getting comfortable in the trees and two police officers keep him company. TransCanada survey and stake out original path of the Keystone XL Pipeline through the tree blockade.
Close to 100 people begin the first day of our Direct Action Training Camp.
Day 20 – Saturday, Oct. 13: The Action Camp holds a series of workshops on direct action history and skills to build a regional network to resist fossil fuel extraction.
Day 21 – Sunday, Oct. 14: Kevin decides to descend from his tree in the Nature Preserve after TransCanada agrees to not clear cut the old growth forest and to under bore the entire preserve instead.
TransCanada continues to deny food and water to peaceful tree blockaders as the action camp wraps up its third and final day.
Day 22 – Monday, Oct. 15: More than 50 people bravely defied TransCanada’s police state and entered the tree blockade to supply our friends with essential food and water supplies. After eight arrests we shut down construction operations at the site for the entire day and managed to get a bag of supplies to our friends in the trees. TransCanada sues the blockade in a trumped up SLAPP suit.
Day 23 – Tuesday, Oct. 16: Police presence intensifies at the tree blockade in response to the mass action the day before. They bring in yet another spotlight to deprive the tree blockaders of sleep.
Texas Land Commissioner, Jerry Patterson, publishes an asinine op-ed against the Blockade in a Dallas Morning News.
Day 24 – Wednesday, Oct. 17: Blockaders arrested on Monday begin to tell their stories of how they were abused by TransCanada’s police.
“That’s when a larger man, who I later heard claim to work for the Hays County Sheriff’s Department, threw me to my stomach. He quickly moved around in front of me, placed his hands on either side of my head, and thrust his knee into my mouth. It was an intentional assault ... I was then filled with a greater rage and resolve to continue on, no matter how many thug police are set on my path.”
Two tree blockaders descend from the trees after they decide they conclude the pipeline is being built around them. TransCanada’s police tell them that they won’t be charged but immediately arrest and charge them when they reach the ground.
Day 25 – Thursday, Oct. 18: Two tree blockaders are released from jail. More blockaders describe their experience at the mass action: "I found myself scrambling onto the top of the truck and tying off a banner to the back of the rig in a blur of cops and cameras.”
Day 26 – Friday, Oct. 19: Editorial boards for multiple state-wide newspapers publish responses to Jerry Patterson’s op-ed lambasting him for being factually incorrect and generally out of touch with Texas landowners.
TransCanada takes the Keystone 1 pipeline offline amidst scrutiny from government whistleblowers.
Day 27 – Saturday, Oct. 20: The number of organizations that have signed onto Solidarity Letter of Support grows to more than 40 organizations.
Day 28 – Sunday, Oct. 21: TransCanada’s helicopters continue to regularly circle the tree blockade. Blockaders continue to hold strong.
Day 29 – Monday, Oct. 22: More letters to the editor published in support of the Blockade and that blast Jerry Paterson’s “rude rant” and not representing the true values of Texas landowners.
More than 4,000 Canadians rally in Ottawa to oppose toxic tar sands as part of the Defend Our Coast actions.
Day 30 – Tuesday, Oct. 23: Our are friends are holding strong in the trees. Communication is extremely limited because of the further increase in TransCanada’s repression.
Day 31 – Wednesday, Oct. 24: One month and counting!
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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