For more photos of today’s action, visit Tar Sands Blockade‘s Flickr page.
WINONA, TX – MONDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2012 7:30 AM – Several protestors with Tar Sands Blockade sealed themselves inside a section of pipe destined for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to stop construction of the dangerous project. Using a blockading technique never implemented before, Matt Almonte and Glen Collins locked themselves between two barrels of concrete weighing over six hundred pounds each. Located twenty-five feet into a pipe segment waiting to be laid in the ground, the outer barrel is barricading the pipe’s opening and neither barrel can be moved without risking serious injury to the blockaders.
The barricaded section of the pipeline passes through a residential neighborhood in Winona, TX. If TransCanada moves ahead with the trenching and burying of this particular section of pipe, it would run less than a hundred feet from neighboring homes. Tar sands pipelines threaten East Texas communities with their highly toxic contents, which pose a greater risk to human health than conventional crude oil. TransCanada’s existing tar sands pipeline, Keystone XL’s predecessor, has an atrocious safety record, leaking twelve times in its first year of operation.
“TransCanada didn’t bother to ask the people of this neighborhood if they wanted to have millions of gallons of poisonous tar sands pumped through their backyards,” said Almonte, one of the protesters now inside the pipeline. “This multinational corporation has bullied landowners and expropriated homes to fatten its bottom line.”
Recently, over 40 communities worldwide planned actions with Tar Sands Blockade during a week of resistance against extreme energy extraction and its direct connection to the climate crisis. A growing global movement is rising up against the abuses of the fossil fuel industry and its increasingly desperate pursuit of dangerous extraction methods.
“I’m barricading this pipe with Tar Sands Blockade today to say loud and clear to the extraction industry that our communities and the resources we depend on for survival are not collateral damage,” said Collins, another blockader inside the pipe and an organizer with Radical Action for Mountain Peoples Survival (RAMPS) and Mountain Justice, grassroots campaigns in Appalachia working to stop mountaintop removal coal mining.
“This fight in East Texas against tar sands exploitation is one and the same as our fight in the hollers of West Virginia. Dirty energy extraction doesn’t just threaten my home; it threatens the collective future of the planet.”
“At this late stage, doing nothing is a greater danger than the risks of taking direct action to stop destructive projects like Keystone XL,” said Ron Seifert, a spokesperson for Tar Sands Blockade. “That’s why folks working with groups like RAMPS, the Unist’ot’en Camp fighting a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia and Tar Sands Blockade are willing to use everything including their own hands and feet to ensure we all have a safe climate and healthy, thriving communities.”
Today also marks day 5 of the Houston Hunger Strike in which Gulf Coast activists with Tar Sands Blockade are going without food to demand that Valero divest entirely from the Keystone XL pipeline and invest in the health and wellbeing of the communities it’s poisoning.
[What follows is a timeline of the mornings events]
UPDATE: 1:00 pm – Third blockader arrested. Isabel Indigo Brooks, who was inside the pipe providing assistance for Glen and Matt, has also been removed from the pipe and arrested.
UPDATE: 12:45 pm – Glen and Matt arrested and loaded into police van. Demonstrate your support with a generous donation to the legal fund for these brave blockaders.
BREAKING: 12:30 pm – Blockaders forcibly extracted from pipe. Police brought an ambulance to the scene and then began pulling on one of the barrels. The crowd surged onto the easement to protect Glen and Matt from this dangerous extraction, but they were chased away by the police. Both barrels and the two blockaders have been removed from the pipe.
Meanwhile, a team of blockaders are stopping a nearby excavator machine from digging the pipeline trench.
UPDATE: 12:05 pm – Two police officers enter the pipe, emerge a few minutes later. Glen and Matt are still locked inside the pipe; the police have been completely unable to extract them but continue to threaten various extraction techniques which would endanger the blockaders’ lives, such as cutting into the pipe.
UPDATE: 11:20 am – Police attempting to block view of pipe and move supporters further from scene. Police have moved several trucks and vans in order to obstruct the view of the pipe in which Glen and Matt are locked. They have threatened arrest and forced supporters off the property immediately adjacent to the pipeline easement, despite the fact that the homeowner gave protesters explicit permission to be in her yard. Police are also forcing protesters to move further along the public road along which they were standing.
Toxic tar sands pipe ready to be installed less than a hundred feet from a home
UPDATE: 10:55 am – Crowd gathers to support blockaders inside Keystone XL pipeline. People driving by the scene are showing their support by honking and stopping to talk to protesters about the dangers of toxic tar sands. Despite threats of violence, spirits are high; the crowd and Glen and Matt are singing together.
UPDATE: 10:40 am – Police threaten to lift pipe and dump out Glen and Matt. Police are continuing to threaten tear gas and canine units. They are also saying that they could raise the pipe and dump out the blockaders. Doing so would cause serious harm or even death; Matt and Glen are locked between two barrels of concrete which weigh over six hundred pounds each.
UPDATE: 9:50 am – Officers are threatening to send a police dog into the pipe. Police are saying that they will send a canine unit into the pipe after the protesters. There are no dogs on scene but the police claim that they are having them brought to the scene. Glen and Matt are wearing face masks to protest the poisonous tar sands that will be passing through the pipe if the KXL is completed.
UPDATE: 9:20 am – Police threaten to use tear gas on peaceful protesters. Several sheriffs are shining flashlights into the pipe and threatening to use tear gas on the people inside. The blockaders are standing strong and remain barricaded inside the pipe. Holding fast to their principles of nonviolent resistance, Matt and Glen respond: “we will not be deterred by threats of violence.”
UPDATE: 9:00 am – Police warn blockaders to leave the pipe or face arrest. Police are demanding that the blockaders leave the pipe or be arrested. The blockaders refuse to comply.
UPDATE: 8:45 a/m – Sheriffs arrive on site and are consulting with workers and talking into the pipe.
UPDATE: 7:30 am – Workers arrive. Construction is effectively halted. Twenty-two trucks and over thirty workers are on the scene with nothing to do.