By Candice Bernd / TruthOut
More than 50 blockaders tried to re-enter the site of what has become a historic standoff Monday, to expand and support the ongoing Tar Sands Blockade tree village in east Texas.
Several managed to break through police lines to attempt to re-supply activists who have been occupying trees in the pathway of the Keystone XL pipeline since September 24. The rest of the blockaders rallied nearby, blocked by police and TransCanada’s hired security, who have formed a human barrier around the pipeline easement.
Two blockaders have locked themselves to construction equipment, and six blockaders have been arrested so far today.
Blockaders have been trying to negotiate with security hired by TransCanada to get food and water to activists occupying the trees in the path of the Keystone XL pipeline, to no avail. Now they are taking a stand together to get supplies to the activists occupying the tree-sit so they may maintain their standoff.
The activists were gathered at the location in Winnsboro after spending the weekend at a direct-action camp hosted by Tar Sands Blockade. Activists traveled from across the country and were trained in climbing, media relations, organizing and body blockade techniques.
“Coming out here had been one of the more inspiring things that I have done in years now,” says Toby Potter, a member of the environmental organization, Earth First!
Potter helped lead workshops over the weekend for camp participants in lockdowns and body blockades. “It gives me a lot of hope, seeing all this resistance from the area … and from around the country, and knowing that there’s [sic] other fights against tar sands at the same time.”
Potter helped camp participants erect a 30-foot wooden tripod used by activists who sit at the top of it during a blockade action. Many of the weekend’s campers participated in Monday’s blockade in Winnsboro to defend the tree village.
TransCanada filed a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) last week, naming 19 individual defendants, three organizations, and another six unidentified tree-sitters. The broad civil action seeks an injunction, declaratory relief and damages.
Most of the defendants have been arrested in previous Tar Sands Blockade actions. Ron Seifert, the Blockade’s media spokesman, was also named, although he has not yet been arrested in connection with the ongoing protest. Actor Daryl Hannah, who was arrested while defending Area Landowner Eleanor Fairchild’s home, is not named in the SLAPP suit. Fairchild, however, is named in the suit.
Another activist, going by the name Kevin Redding due to security concerns, recently escaped arrest at a secondary tree-sit the Blockade launched last week at West End Nature Preserve outside Mt. Vernon, Texas, where TransCanada had announced plans to cut trees.
“I’ve lived in Texas my whole life, and when I heard about TransCanada putting the pipeline through, I didn’t like the idea of any part of Texas having a tar sands pipeline going through it,” Redding told Truthout. “I’ve been here for a long time, and I don’t plan on going anywhere.”
Redding said local police tried to intimidate him, as he sat in a tree, with threats that he would be charged with terrorism. When company representatives said they would under-bore through the preserve, rather than cut trees in the ecologically sensitive area, the activist left the site, unobserved.
Monday’s action comes on the heels of an ongoing police crackdown not only on the tree-sitters, but also on journalists trying to tell their story. Two New York Times reporters were detained Oct. 10 while covering the tree-sit. They were released after identifying themselves as media.