Day of Action shuts down Keystone XL Construction

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

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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 sitepolice 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.

Ruth, 75, of Nacogdoches, after being pepper sprayed by police:Ruth, 75, of Nacogdoches, after being pepper sprayed by police:

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. Pleaseconsider 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: 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 a 21 year old woman from Nacogdoches and 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.

UPDATE: 2:00 pm – From coast to coast, solidarity against the Keystone XL

In Burlington, Vermont, 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.”

Fairfax, California:Fairfax, California:

Burlington, Vermont:Burlington, Vermont: