The Canadian fossil fuel giant Transcanada (net earnings 2011: $1.5 billion) is encountering increased resistance from the “Tar Sands Blockade” in eastern Texas — now in its 18th day of an extensively constructed “tree sit-in.” And it is employing increasingly draconian police measures to prevent any public awareness of the protests and confrontations.
Today, two journalists from the NYTimes were handcuffed, detained, and then expelled from private property by local police employed as private security by TransCanada. According to eyewitnesses, the journalists were grabbed by the police, physically restrained, and prevented from approaching the blockade site or making any contact with the protesters. The NYTimes issued a statement confirming the detentions.
This is the latest in a series of increasingly repressive reactions on the part of Canada’s largest pipeline manufacturer against the blockade — a coalition of Texas and Oklahoma landowners and climate justice organizers seeking to halt construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
It was previously reported that Transcanada is paying local police $30 per hour to maintain “a police state” at the site of the tree sit-in, including 24/7 surveillance, floodlights, and orders to arrest without question. Senior officers at the site told the protesters that their “mandate from TransCanada is to arrest anyone who sets foot on the Keystone XL pipeline easement.”
On Wednesday, October 10, two independent journalists, Elizabeth Arce and Lorenzo Serna, were arrested after filming Transcanada’s tree-cleareance machinery approaching within 20 feet of the tree blockade — a violation of federal law. The Transcanada “police” then sealed off the blockade perimeter, confiscated cameras, and are now preventing anyone from setting foot in the area — including journalists. Two other journalists, reportedly from a major media outlet (but asking for anonymity) were handcuffed on the site, then released.
Police now surround the tree protesters, and have severed the ropes used to get food and water to the protesters in the trees.
In late Septemeber, as reported in detail on this site, two blockaders were put in chokeholds, pepper-sprayed, and tasered by the police — while in handcuffs — after chaining themselves to Transcanada machinery.
Aware of the public relations implications, Transcanada is now taking more sophisticated — if cowardly — measures to prevent public awareness of the ongoing blockade, which is now in its second month. On October 2, police erected a screen around the scene before they moved in to arrest blockader Alejandro de la Torre, who had chained himself to an underground capsule to prevent clearing.
In the most high-profile event so far, on October 4, actress Daryl Hannah joined with local property-owner Eleanor Fairchild to put their bodies in the path of encroaching Transcanada clearance machines, in defense of Fairchild’s 300-acre farm — a portion of which was seized by Transcanada against her will via “eminent domain” law. Fairchild, a 78-year-old great-grandmother, along Hannah, was arrested and charged with trespassing — despite it being her own land.
Fairchild spoke on camera about how Transcanada “showed up” one day, with no warning, and started clear-cutting her land — see her personal account, here:
Another blockader, Maggie Gorry, was charged with a felony — “Use of a criminal instrument” — for sitting on top of a 40-foot-high timber pole, which delayed clear-cutting operations for two days. Bail was set at $11,000.
Despite the efforts of Transcanada to prevent public awareness, the daily confrontations are being reported by the blockaders themselves, here. And the blockaders, despite the threats of legal and/or physical action against them, are planning to expand their actions: they are organizing a training camp for incoming blockaders, near Dallas, on Oct 12-14, open to the public.
Don Lieber's writing and research has been published by the United Nations, The Associated Press, The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, E-The Environmental Magazine and others. He contributes regularly to PlanetSave.com.