by Katie Valentine
After more than two months of protests against construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas and Oklahoma, the arrest count has reached 33.
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was the latest to get arrested after she brought supplies to activist treesitters attempting to block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas. Stein issued a statement criticizing both President Obama and Governor Romney for their policies on fossil fuels:
“I’m here to connect the dots between super storm Sandy and the record heat, drought, and fire we’ve seen this year – and this Tar Sands pipeline, which will make all of these problems much worse. And I’m here to connect the dots between climate devastation and pipeline politicians – both Obama and Romney – who are competing, as we saw in the debates, for the role of Puppet In Chief for the fossil fuel industry. Both deserve that title. Obama’s record of ‘drill baby drill’ has gone beyond the harm done by George Bush. Mitt Romney promises more of the same.”
Stein’s arrest follows the Oct. 4 arrest of 78-year-old great grandmother Eleanor Fairchild, who was charged with trespassing on her own land after standing in the path of bulldozers. Fairchild, who was joined in her protest by actress Daryl Hannah, said in a video that she blocked the bulldozers for environmental reasons beyond her land.
“This is not just about my land; it’s about all of our country,” she said. “It needs to be stopped.”
Protests and acts of civil disobedience have been going on in Texas and Oklahoma since mid-August, after construction of the pipeline’s southern leg, which runs from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast, began in Texas on Aug. 9. Activists have chained themselves to logging machinery and pipeline transportation equipment and have hung banners at equipment storage sites. On Sept. 24, eight people climbed trees outside Winnsboro, Texas and refused to come down until pipeline construction stops, beginning what is said to be the first tree blockade in Texas history. As of last week, there were two protesters living in the tree houses and platforms constructed in the 80-ft. trees, each with no plans of coming down.
Though the arrest count has remained low compared to last year’s protests at the White House, interactions between police and protesters have been far more contentious. Last month, police reportedly used pepper spray and Tasers on two protesters chained to logging equipment before eventually removing and arresting them. Tar Sands Blockade describes police interaction at the tree blockade site:
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.
The latest round of Texas protests also comes as Canadians protested the Northern Gateway Pipeline in British Columbia. Last Wednesday, in a show of solidarity, one protester hung a banner from the gate she chained herself to, which read: “Defend All Coasts from British Columbia to the Gulf Coast.”
Katie Valentine graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Journalism. She is currently an intern with the international climate team at the Center for American Progress.