What an incredible day of action! Over 100 people in Nacogdoches, Texas rallied to defend their homes and protect their water from toxic tar sands. Despite brutal police repression, we will not be intimidated and continue to resist TransCanada’s bullying of our friends and neighbors. We are inspired by the over 40 communities that rallied across the country and the world against tar sands and deadly resource extraction everywhere. Scroll down for updates from throughout the day, or check our Flikr for more photos. Thanks to everyone who participated, and stay tuned for what’s coming next from the blockade.
Day of Action Sees Dozens Walk On to Work Site as the Nacogdoches Community Rallies with Affected Landowners at Lake Nacogdoches to Protect Fresh Water Supply from Toxic Tar Sands
NACOGDOCHES, TX – MONDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2012 8:00AM – Today, four people locked themselves to heavy machinery used along the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline route. They were joined by several others forming a human chain to block the movement of heavy machinery onsite, while more than 30 people walked onto the same construction site to halt work early this morning. Meanwhile, three others launched a new tree blockade at a crossing of the Angelina River, suspending themselves from 50 foot pine trees with life lines anchored to heavy machinery, effectively blocking the entirety of Keystone XL’s path. Today’s Day of Action is in solidarity with local landowners struggling to protect their water and land from TransCanada’s toxic tar sands pipeline.
Keystone XL would cross 16 large rivers in Texas, including the site of today’s latest tree blockade, the scenic Angelina River. Nestled amongst 50 foot pine trees in forested bottomlands, the tree blockaders have settled in for a long standoff in protection of their fresh drinking and agricultural water. The waters downstream feed into the popular Sam Rayburn Reservoir, the largest lake entirely within the state of Texas, renowned for its angling opportunities and competitions.
“Tar Sands Blockade stands with all communities affected by the Canadian tar sands. From indigenous nations in Alberta, Canada to the besieged refinery neighborhoods of the American Gulf Coast where the tar sands will be refined, there’s a groundswell of resistance demanding an end to toxic tar sands exploitation. Today’s events simply mark the latest in our sustained, community-based civil disobedience campaign, and many more communities are destined to rise up to defend their homes from TransCanada’s fraud, bullying, and reckless endangerment of their lives and fresh water,” insisted Ron Seifert, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson.
Included amongst the Angelina tree sitters is local Stephen F. Austin State University student, Lizzy Alvarado, 21, an Austin-born, third-year cinematography major. Leading outdoor excursions for other local youth and having helped found the Nacogdoches Rat Skulls, an all female cycling-advocacy organization, Alvarado is an active member of the Nacogdoches community.
“I climbed this tree in honor of all the landowners who have been bullied mercilessly into signing easement contracts and who were then silenced through fear by TransCanada’s threat of endless litigation. That’s not what this country stands for in my mind, and if we don’t take a stand here to secure our rights now, then it will keep happening to everyone,” proclaimed Alvarado. “What’s happening isn’t just threatening my community’s drinking water but it will threaten that of all communities along the pipeline’s path.“
While these multisite actions halted Keystone XL construction this morning, local community members rallied at Lake Nacogdoches to further highlight the threats Keystone XL poses to the community’s watershed and public health. These events around the Nacogdoches area coincide with a week’s worth of events in solidarity with Tar Sands Blockade. Scheduled to occur in over 40 communities around the world, these actions highlight the urgent need to address the climate crisis.
Some actions have targeted policy makers or financial institutions bankrolling dirty energy projects while others rallied to address the damage done by Hurricane Sandy through community organizing and connecting extreme weather to extreme extraction. Yesterday in Washington, DC, more than 3,000 gathered at the White House to call on President Obama to reject the permit for the northern segment of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. Other actions are scheduled to happen today and later this week.
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.
“From the Sandy-decimate streets of New York City to these piney woods here in East Texas, communities are resisting dangerous corporations like TransCanada. These solidarity actions are part of a burgeoning movement of ordinary folks coming together in their neighborhoods, schools, and community centers to draw the connections between extreme extraction like tar sands exploitation and extreme weather like the droughts devastating farmers and ranchers all over Texas and the Midwest. Today we rally to build a future where all people and the planet are healthy and thriving,” said Kim Huynh, a spokesperson for the Tar Sands Blockade.
UPDATE: 8:15 am – Police officers arrive on site at Angelina River tree blockade
UPDATE: 8:40 am – Police threatening to cut support lines for tree blockaders
Cherokee County Sheriffs have been caught on tape making multiple threats to cut the support lines of the tree blockades, which could be potentially fatal for Lizzy and the other blockaders occupying the tree-sits.
UPDATE: 9:10 am – All construction stopped at site of lock down; workers have completely left site
Workers intending to continue construction of the Keystone XL pipeline have completely abandoned all plans to work today at the site of our lock down and have left the site. A crew of blockaders will maintain a presence there while reinforcements are being sent to the new tree blockade to support Lizzy and the other blockaders whose lives are being threatened by the police.
UPDATE: 9:30 am – TransCanada workers return to lock down site with police officers and video equipment
TransCanada workers were overheard telling the police that they want the blockaders out. Police are calling for reinforcements and getting out flexicuffs.
UPDATE: 9:40 am – One person detained at lock down site, placed in flexicuffs
The police have detained one person supporting the blockaders who locked themselves to heavy machinery this morning. Hear from the blockaders themselves why they decided to take action:
UPDATE: 10:15 am – Police pepper spray two people locked down; one person arrested on the ground at tree blockade
Police have sprayed pepper spray onto the skin of two people locked to heavy machinery on the Keystone XL pipeline easement as supporters and local media watched from the road. The blockaders who were pepper sprayed responded by singing loudly and are in good spirits. Meanwhile, at the tree blockade, one person was arrested on the ground for trespassing on the easement.
UPDATE: 10:40 am – Solidarity actions take off in Minneapolis and San Francisco
Solidarity actions took off this morning with a banner drop overlooking Minneapolis. In San Francisco, demonstrators rallied outside the Canadian Consulate in the financial district, demanding that Canada withdraw its support for the Keystone XL Pipeline, and gathering strength for the continued push to hold recently elected US politicians accountable to the will of the American people to combat climate change.
UPDATE: 10:55 am – Second supporter arrested at lock down site; police putting handcuffs on blockaders locked to machinery
A second person supporting those locked to heavy machinery has been arrested by the Cherokee County Sheriff Department, while officers have handcuffed the free hand of those locked down. The police are tampering with the lock boxes but seem unsure about how to remove the blockaders.
UPDATE: 11:10 am – Solidarity action in Palm Beach, FL results in arrests in front of Deutsche Bank
A solidarity action in Palm Beach, Florida targeting Deutsche Bank, a major financier of the Keystone XL pipeline, has resulted in the arrest of multiple protesters. The protesters demanded that Deutsche Bank “refuse to facilitate any future investments in Big Oil, starting with the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.”
UPDATE: 11:15 am – Two blockaders extracted from lock down; two more holding strong despite police brutality
The police have just extracted the two blockaders they had pepper sprayed earlier this morning. Both individuals had their eyes swollen shut because of the pepper spray. After they were removed from their lock down device, the blockaders went limp and were dragged away by police. This brings the total number of arrests so far today to five. Please make a generous donation to help get them out of jail quickly and to support their legal defense.
UPDATE: 11:25 am – Police pepper spray remaining two blockaders, dragging away arrested blockader who went limp
Police have pepper sprayed the remaining two blockaders locked to heavy machinery and continued to brutalize the two blockaders who were already arrested. They were seen dragging one blockader who seemed in extreme pain and unresponsive face down along the ground by his shoulder and shoving him into the back of a police car while refusing to clean pepper spray out of the eyes of the other arrested blockader or provide him with water.
UPDATE: 11:40 am – Remaining two blockaders extracted after being pepper sprayed
All four blockaders that were locked to heavy machinery have now been arrested after being pepper sprayed and brutalized by Cherokee County Sheriffs. This brings the total number of arrests so far today to seven, with two supporters at the ground blockade and one supporter at the tree blockade also being arrested. Donate now to help get them out of jail and to support their legal defense.
UPDATE: 11:55 am – Sheriffs shaking tree-sit lifeline; sitters refusing to come down
Sheriffs shook the support line for one of the tree-sits, even after being repeatedly informed that the ropes are critical support lines and must not be tampered with. Lizzy and the other tree-sitters are refusing to come down, even with their lives endangered by the police. In response, sheriffs cleared supporters out from underneath the tree-sits and the one in charge was seen having a long phone conversation next to a lifeline.
UPDATE: 12:45 pm – “Commonluck Theater of Dramatic Nourishment” targets TransCanada lobbying firm
In a beautiful display of nonviolent resistance, the “Commonluck Theater of Dramatic Nourishment” delivered cookies and other treats to the Santa Clarita, California office of McKenna, Long, and Aldridge, the main lobbying firm for TransCanada, in an attempt to change their hearts, “Grinch style”. The stark contrast between the tactics of our movement and the tactics of those in power could not be more abundantly clear, with this action coming on the heels of several blockaders being brutalized and arrested by Cherokee County Sheriffs earlier today. Please consider a donation to the legal fund to support those who were met with violence just for standing up for the health of their communities.
UPDATE: 2:15 pm – All three tree blockaders have been extracted
After valiant attempts by ground supporters to stop the advance of the cherry picker, police were finally able to maneuver it into position and extract Lizzy and the other two tree blockaders. Fortunately, none of them were hurt in the process, although the conduct of the Cherokee County Sheriffs throughout the day has been absolutely despicable. The arrest of the three tree blockaders brings the total number of arrests today to 12. There is no word yet on what arrested blockaders are being charged with, but we anticipate the bail amounts being set high. Make a donation to help our injured friends get out of jail and continue their important work with the blockade.
UPDATE: 2:00 pm – From coast to coast, solidarity against the Keystone XL
In Burlington, Vermont, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, and Fairfax, California, activists displayed banners decrying Keystone XL’s role in the ongoing climate crisis. “As communities continue to rebuild in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, it should be obvious that the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure is unacceptable,” said Sara Mehalick of Rising Tide Vermont. “From Transcanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, to Vermont Gas’s scheme to pump gas under Lake Champlain, to ExxonMobil’s plans for a New England tar sands pipeline, our right to a livable planet is under attack.”
UPDATE: 1:10 pm – Ground supporters blockade cherry picker to protect tree-sits; police retaliate with reckless pepper spray and arrests
Cherokee County Sheriffs brought in a cherry picker to try and extract the three tree blockaders. In response, a couple dozen ground supporters stood in front of the truck with the cherry picker and pushed up against it in an attempt to stop it. The truck driver refused to stop until they hit one of the supporters and almost dragged him underneath the vehicle. In an effort to disperse the crowd, police began indiscriminately spraying people in the face with pepper spray, including Jordan Johnson, a 22 year old woman from Nacogdoches, and Jeanette Singleton, a 75 year old woman with a heart condition. The officer who pepper sprayed supporters is refusing to identify himself. Two more of the ground supporters have been arrested, bringing the total for today to nine. Donate now to support these brave blockaders standing up for their communities in the face of brutal police repression.
Supporters attempting to stop cherry picker:
Jeanette Singleton, 75, of Nacogdoches, after being pepper sprayed by police:
Police in front of tree blockade:
UPDATE: 5:20 pm – Reports of police brutality against blockaders continue; shocking new photos of today’s action
Sadly, reports of police mistreatment and brutality against blockaders continue to reach us in the aftermath of today’s action. We’ve heard that Lizzy and Ben, two of today’s tree blockaders, were strip-searched by police after being arrested and taken into custody. Lizzy’s flexicuffs were also fastened so tightly that she was brought to tears and begging to have them loosened. When they were finally removed, they left behind markings on her wrists. Police were also very aggressive about removing Lizzy’s piercings.
All blockaders arrested won’t be released until after they see a judge tomorrow morning. Their charges are still unknown.
Below are some shocking photos from today’s action of blockaders brutalized by police.
Jordan Johnson, 22, Emory University graduate student, Nacogdoches born and raised, whose family has been chicken farmers in east Texas for generations, after being pepper sprayed by Cherokee County Sheriffs:
Jeanette Singleton, 75 year old great grandmother, Nacogdoches resident, and founding member of the Nacogdoches Chapter of the Raging Grannies, after being pepper sprayed:
Blockader being forcefully removed from lock down by police:
UPDATE: 4:45 pm – Chesapeake Earth First floats banner at Canadian Embassy; Occupy Austin crashes Texas Railroad Commission
Chesapeake Earth First stormed the Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C. today and released a banner attached to balloons inside the atrium. This was the second Canadian embassy that was targeted for protests today. In Austin, Tar Sands Blockade organizers and members of Occupy Austin flew banners inside and outside of the Texas Railroad Commission, the regulatory body in charge of eminent domain.
UPDATE: 6:00 pm – Allies in Oregon, Utah and Missouri target centers of state and corporate power
In Portland, anti-KXL activists went to a Bank of America in downtown Portland and unfurled a banner, telling passersby about their heinous investments. They have invested more than $10 billion in the tar sands and more than $4 billion in coal industry expansion. Portlanders temporarily shut down the bank branch and then went outside and continued flyering.
In Salt Lake City, activists from Peaceful Uprising and Utah Tar Sands Resistance today took part in a rally at the Bureau of Land Management office. Utah is currently under threat from many capital-intensive industrial projects, including the second proposed tar sands project in North America, which would destroy large portions of wilderness in remote eastern portions of the state. The Salt Lake City region is home to several oil refineries and the deepest open-pit mine in the world. The valley (home to 2 million people) has some of the worst air quality in the country.
In St. Louis, community members, including Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), and local students participated in a national day of action against the Keystone XL pipeline. The group acted in solidarity with over 40 other groups across the nation, going to J.P. Morgan Chase in Clayton to demand that the bank stop financing the pipeline.
UPDATE: 6:45 pm – Over 100 people rally in Nacogdoches, Texas to stop toxic tar sands
As the mass action raged on three hours away in the north, blockaders in Houston helped to facilitate a tour of the toxic refineries and petrochemical plants that surround the East End of Houston to a group of over 80 primarily Latino/a high school students. Blockaders led a teach-in in front of a Valero refinery that already processes Venezuelan tar sands and is situated at the end of the Keystone pipeline route in the neighborhood of Manchester.
Blockaders have been actively organizing and educating residents to empower them to resist the further toxification of their air.
We stand in solidarity with the most effected communities and the youth of these communities who are disproportionately effected by this murderous and exploitative industry. Children living within two miles of the Houston ship channel are 56 percent more likely to develop leukemia than the national average, they also exhibit extremely high rates of diseases such as asthma, eczema, lymphoma and hypothyroidism.
From start to finish the Keystone XL pipeline harms all living creatures in it’s path, from indigenous communities along the Athabasca River in Alberta, to landowners along the pipeline route whose homes are compromised, the animals, plants, and trees who are destroyed, to the end of the line in refining communities like Manchester.
Wherever they try to bring the KXL, we will be there to resist!
UPDATE: 7:00 pm – VIDEO: Cops threatening to cut support lines of tree blockade
UPDATE: 7:20 pm – Coast to coast actions against Chase; Seattle activists drop banner; Glacier’s Edge Earth First stage noise riot against I-69
In Bridgeport, Connecticut, Capitalism vs. the Climate rallied and dropped a banner visible from the I-95 highway, protesting Chase’s financing dirty climate-changing energy sources including the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The events are part of a week of solidarity actions by more than 25 communities across the world to demonstrate an urgent need to address the climate crisis. These actions are in direct response to the aftershock of Hurricane Sandy, closing out the hottest year on record and the ongoing ecological devastation of tar sands extraction.
Cascadia Forest Defenders started the day off with picketing outside of Shell which owns more than 60% of the tar sands operations in Alberta. Later they moved to Chase Bank in downtown Eugene. J.P Morgan Chase is actively financing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to refineries in Houston, and Port Arthur, Texas. “We are standing here today with the indigenous people fighting for their land, the Tar Sands Blockade and all those who are resisting extractive industries in their homes,” said Ben Jones, proud Cascadia Forest Defender.
In Seattle, activists dropped a banner overlooking a major highway. “We stand in solidarity with communities from Texas to Canada that stand in the intended path of the pipeline . We stand in solidarity with families who rely on safe drinking water and clean air. We stand with those individuals who sacrificed so much today to put their bodies in the path of the pipeline,” says Annie Lukins, Seattle resident.
Bloomington residents, along with Glacier’s Edge Earth First, held a demonstration at the offices of Crider& Crider, Inc., in Bloomington. Crider & Crider was chosen as a site for the protest because the contracting company has been awarded contracts to build part of I-69 in Monroe County, where opposition to the project has been overwhelming. Demonstrators used pots and pans, a squeezebox, beans in tupperware, and other noise makers to disrupt business at the office for nearly an hour before police arrived.
UPDATE: 9:00 pm- Late night arrivals from Canada!
UPDATE: 9:30 pm – News coverage from KTRE TV on the pepper spraying of a 75 year old Nagodoches great-grandmother.
UPDATE: 10:00 pm – We need to raise $13,490 by Wednesday at 5:30 to bail our 11 friends out of jail
Today over 100 people rallied and helped shut down two Keystone XL work sites for most of the day.
Seven of our friends are being charged with two counts of trumped up felony charges. Four of them for peacefully locking themselves to machinery and three others for sitting in trees in the pathway of Keystone XL. Their crime? Defending the community and water supply from some one of the most toxic substances on the planet. Their estimated combined bail will be set around $132,250 and we need to quickly raise $13,490 to bond them out.
This is one of those times when we ask everyone to dig deep into your heart and your pocket and contribute more than usual. All of our funds come from the generosity of individual donors like you.
We appreciate your ongoing support and we recognize a contribution isn’t possible for everyone. But if a contribution is within your means please consider a generous donation of $100, or even $10, because every little bit helps us reach our needed goal.
TransCanada’s strategy is to use their millions and board of corporate lawyers to intimidate, bankrupt, and bully us. We refuse to be intimidated. We won’t stop until we stop this toxic pipeline!