BREAKING UPDATE 5:15PM: According to blockaders on the ground, several arrests have been made at the Tree Blockade. We are awaiting details but it has been confirmed two tree-sitters have been arrested.
Monday I was arrested at the site of Tar Sands Blockade’s tree blockade in Winnsboro, TX. Though some people attend an action of that size with the intention of being arrested, whether to stop construction activities or to create media attention, I personally never intended to land myself in police custody.
As part of the blockade’s regular ground team, I participate in support operations for those who spend their days and weeks high above the forest floor. Monday was no different, and I entered the woods in full camouflage with several tasks in mind, all of which revolved around resupplying tree sitters with basic necessities: Fresh fruit and vegetables, vitamins, warm socks, etc.
After a fairly successful morning of fairly undetected movement, I volunteered to try to draw the attention of several police – most of whom are off duty officers from other counties being paid very well to assist in starving out the tree sitters – so another contingent of ground supporters could send a bag full of materials to our friends in the canopy.
Unfortunately, my efforts worked all too well, and in trying to draw a few police in my direction, I ended up drawing almost every police in the vicinity. I made a break for the densest part of a nearby thicket, knowing that most of the officers would be unwilling and unable to follow me through such dense and thorn-laden areas. I was half right. Most police wouldn’t follow me in, but other police had finally been stationed in the brambles. Every turn I made found me face to face with another police officer, most of whom were whooping and hollering as if participating in a rodeo. All I could hear aside from the crashing branches were calls of “Hoo, we got a live one!” and “Here we go baby, come my way!” Exhausted and surrounded by roughly ten or more police joyously waiting to tackle me, I fell to my knees and raised my hands.
That’s when a larger man, who I later heard claim to work for the Hays County Sheriff’s Department, threw me to my stomach. He quickly moved around in front of me, placed his hands on either side of my head, and thrust his knee into my mouth. It was an intentional assault, and though it stung, all I could think was, “This is what police do. They brutalize people.” He sat on my neck with all of his weight for a few minutes while ripping through the small pack I had strapped to my back. When he stood me up, I commented that the knee to the face was absolutely unnecessary, and the surrounding officers chimed in that they didn’t see such a thing happen. With a laugh, I offered that, “Of course you didn’t. You like to knee people in their faces too.” As I was loaded into an off road vehicle, still more police tried to blame their minor scratches and scrapes on me, claiming I should be charged with a felony count of assault against them. I was clearly bleeding more than anyone else in the vicinity – blood I drew myself crashing through thick stands of briar – and I laughed that such supposed tough guys, men so willing to assault an outnumbered and surrendering person, would then start crying foul. The veil of authority so clearly lifted, I witnessed what so many millions of Americans must undergo regularly: Violent and abusive men blaming their victims for the violence they inflicted upon them.
I was summarily transferred into the hands of on duty Wood County Sheriff’s Department staff, who were, to their credit, kinder. I glimpsed what is perhaps a false impression, that there is somewhere beneath their dedication to a law written and manipulated by the wealthy, a sense of understanding for what we at the blockade are doing. Wood county is rural, and I would imagine it’s hard to work for the Sheriff’s Department, and to not know someone whose land is being stolen, destroyed, and turned into a ticking time bomb. Never did I hear the phrase, “I’m just doing my job,” more times in one day, and I reminded every person who tried to absolve themselves with such a modern and absurd incantation, that the worst crimes in human history have all been committed by people who were “just doing their jobs,” and that our jobs do not relieve us of our moral and ethical obligations as conscientious human beings.
As the police pick-up truck drove myself and another captured friend through the clear-cut and back to the road, I was first overcome with a deep sadness. I felt that I had failed my friends, and even that I had failed the forest itself. I have spent many nights in those woods, and can attest to their majesty and wonder. I watched the canopy come down at the hands of men operating machines, which could only be built and utilized in a world as insane as ours. As I viewed the devastation that TransCanada had wrought upon that landscape, I began to imagine that devastation running across the continent, and was then filled with a greater rage and resolve to continue on, no matter how many thug police are set on my path.