National Environmental Groups Stand With Utah Land Defenders

Cross-posted from Utah Tar Sands Resistance. Please consider a DONATION if you stand with the Utah 21.

This week, twenty-one people were arrested while engaging in peaceful civil disobedience in protest of a controversial proposed tar sands mine in northeastern Utah, which would threaten local land and water, as well as contributing to the global climate crisis. As they await charges, national environmental organizations expressed their solidarity with the protesters who stood for our freedom from dirty fossil fuels and devastating climate impacts.

“This could be the first large-scale tar sands strip mining in the Unites States, and this filthy industry threatens our air, water and wildlife,” said Valerie Love, No Tar Sands Campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, who was one of the 21 arrested at the site.  “We staged our protest on behalf of the millions of people who will be affected by this dirty fossil fuel mining. Over 40 million people and many wildlife species depend on this watershed. We need to say no to tar sands mining.”

SONY DSCRainforest Action Network stands in solidarity with the Utah anti-tar sands protestors whose commitment to protecting our air, water and climate—at the expense of their own freedom—is inspiring,” said Lindsey Allen, Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network. “Our movement is already working hard to prevent the Keystone XL from delivering tar sands oil across our borders; we can’t allow the practice itself to be imported to our cherished wild places. We applaud the local Utah campaigners for fighting to stop the first-ever tar sands mine in the United States.”

“Tar sands are the dirtiest fuel on the planet. By shining a spotlight on these dangerous projects, protestors in Utah are doing the world a service–they deserve our support, not jail time. If the government won’t act to keep tar sands in the ground, then the people will. The power of nonviolent direct action has helped block tar sands pipelines and mines from Nebraska to Maine to Alberta. This resistance is strategic, it’s effective, and it’s ultimately going to carry the day,” said May Boeve, Executive Director of

“We owe a debt of gratitude to the brave people in Utah who are risking themselves to protect us all,” said Luísa Abbott Galvão, of Friends of the Earth. “We’ve seen from Canada that tar sands production is incompatible with environmental sustainability, land rights, and the public health.”

SONY DSC“Mining tar sands in Utah would be disastrous for local communities and the water, and would be a major setback for the country’s efforts to stop climate change,” said Kendall Mackey, National Tar Sands Organizer for Energy Action Coalition. “Youth activists across the country stand with those opposing tar sands mining in Utah and stand ready to use our political and financial power to stop it.”

“Tar sands is the dirtiest source of oil on the planet.  We’ve seen the destruction being caused by tar sands everywhere–from the strip mines in Canada to the ruptured pipelines that dump tar sands crude into American waterways and neighborhoods,” said Marion Klaus, a Sierra Club volunteer leader who lives in Utah. “The Sierra Club stands with citizens everywhere who are fighting dirty fossil fuels and getting to work creating the clean energy prosperity this country needs.”

SONY DSC“The Utah 21 are not alone.  These brave and principled nonviolent activists are only the most recent to take their turns on the front lines against extreme energy extraction and for a safe climate and clean energy future. Many have preceded them and more will surely follow.  Our movement is already winning as we have effectively limited tar sands production by blocking its export out of North America.  The oil industry and the Obama and Harper governments should expect more protests, marches, and civil disobedience until energy policy is brought in line with what climate science demands – anything less is climate denial which we, and activists around the country, will not tolerate” said Steve Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International.

“Greenpeace stands in solidarity with the brave activists who have put their freedom on the line to prevent the construction of the first-ever US tar sands mine. We can’t hope to solve the climate crisis if we continue to extract and burn the dirtiest fuels on the planet. In the face of devastating droughts, floods, and fires, non-violent direct action is a necessary tool to confront injustices where governments and corporations have failed to act,” said Gabriel Wisniewski of Greenpeace.


Permanent link to this article:

BREAKING: 21 Arrested Blockading Construction of First US Tar Sands Mine in Utah


On Monday, July 21, around 80 land defenders with Peaceful Uprising and Utah Tar Sands Resistance halted construction of the first US tar sands mine in Utah. 19 people were arrested at the site. Two more, including Tar Sands Blockade organizer Cindy Spoon, were arrested at Uintah County Jail when attempting to provide jail support for those already locked up (like figuring out what bail would be).

Reports from Utah are distressing to say the least. We are still awaiting more details from those on the ground, but it is clear many of our comrades have been arrested and are facing very serious charges. You can read more about the action on this Reuters article or in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Please help us get Cindy and all of our friends out of jail by donating to the legal fund set up by Rising Tide North America:

Here’s the full statement from Peaceful Uprising and Utah Tar Sands Resistance as of Monday night:

After a massive direct action protest today at the site of U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands strip-mining site, a total of 21 were arrested and are currently awaiting charges at Uintah County Jail in Vernal, Utah. In addition to protestors, those acting as legal observers, independent media, and jail support were arrested, as well as several indigenous and trans individuals whose safety we are deeply concerned about.

Early this morning land defenders locked themselves to equipment being used to clear-cut and grade an area designated for the tar sands’ companies processing plant, as well as a fenced “cage” used to store the equipment. Others formed a physical blockade with their bodies to keep work from happening, and to protect those locked-down to the equipment. Banners were also hung off the cage that read: “You are trespassing on Ute land” and “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.”

13 people were arrested for locking to equipment. An additional six people were arrested after sitting in the road to prevent the removal of those being taken away in two police vans. Two of the protesters arrested were injured. One was taken a nearby hospital to be treated, while the other is being treated at the Uintah County Jail. The nature of their injuries is not being disclosed by the county sheriffs.

Two additional people were arrested when they arrived at Uintah Country Jail to provide support to the land defenders inside. An estimated 10 armed deputies with police dogs were standing outside the jail wearing bullet proof vests. Those at the jail to provide support were told that the deputies were there to “deter” any supporters from actually coming to the jail.

Currently all 21 individuals are still being processed and held.

Support these brave land defenders who put their hearts and bodies on the line by donating to their legal fund.

Rising Tide North America is handling donations through The Action Network. Donate to the land defenders’ legal support fund using this secure link.

Permanent link to this article:

Photo Essay: First Nations Take Their Last March Through Canada’s Dystopian Tar Sands

by Liana Lopez from t.e.j.a.s. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services). Reposted from YES! Magazine.

The fifth and final Tar Sands Healing Walk took place on June 28 in Fort McMurray, Canada. Hundreds of people joined First Nations leaders in a prayer-filled walk around the refineries and “land reclamation” projects operated by the oil company Syncrude.

“This isn’t protest or a rally,” organizer Crystal Lameman told the participants in the walk. “This is a spiritual gathering with prayers and ceremony in order to help bring all of us to an understanding about how bad this is and why it has to stop. The best way to stop it is at the source. So we need to start here.”

The Healing Walk gathering took place from June 27 to 29, with workshops and traditional ceremonies leading up to Saturday’s walk. A lot of discussion this year centered on the Canadian Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling, announced the day before the gathering, which granted aboriginal title to the Tsilhqot’in Nation. The decision may set a precedent for other First Nations, allowing them better footing in their fight against tar sands pipelines and other forms of industrial development.

In this final year of the Tar Sands Healing Walk, organizers were quick to point out that their fight is not yet won. Far from it, as tar sands extraction is ramping up in Canada.

Yet, just within the last five years, awareness about the issue has spread at a tremendous pace. And this year’s Healing Walk drew participants from all over world, including, for the first time, a Gulf Coast delegation from Houston, Texas, and Mobile, Ala., where tar sands refining and storage is set to take place this year.

“We wanted to come see the source of what will be coming to our area and learn what can be done to stop it,” said Mae Jones, who came with the Alabama delegation. “We are honored to be part of the walk this year.”

The organizers of the Healing Walk also said that, although this is the last year of the event, upcoming projects are being planned that will be just as important.

Marchers camped at a spot called Indian Beach. Although the setting was beautiful, organizers informed the marchers that the water was contaminated with heavy metals and chemicals from mining.

Organizers Crystal Lameman (at left), Eriel Deranger (with megaphone), and Jesse Cardinal (at right) lead opening ceremonies with Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Derek Nepinak (in black), and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam (in white).

First Nations women take their positions under a banner before the start of the Healing Walk.

Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Derek Nepinak and First Nation Dene drummers at the beginning of the march.

First Nation Dene drummers from Canada’s Northwest Territories played for the entirety of the walk.

The Tar Sands Healing Walk begins its 16-kilometer trek through the heart of a tar sands mining operations.

After Syncrude was fined $3 million in 2008—when more than 1,600 migratory ducks died after landing in a toxic tailings pond—the company began using decoys and air cannons to frighten birds away. The Healing Walk passed this fake bird of prey mounted in a pond, complete with robotic wing movements and recorded cries.

Marchers take one of four breaks along the route for prayer, rest, and nourishment. Each break included a prayer to one of the four winds.

Dust masks were provided, but many participants brought their own respirators to protect themselves from chemical pollutants and awful smells.

A tailings pond marks the beginning of the final segment of the Healing Walk.

The “scarecrows” hanging out in this toxic sludge resemble human employees in full work gear. They were pretty scary to the real humans walking by as well.

The view of Syncrude’s facilities from the end of the Tar Sands Healing Walk.

A marcher helps a canine companion stay cool on the walk.

Permanent link to this article: