What's at Stake as TransCanada Moves to Forcefully Suppress Tar Sands Blockade
What's at Stake as TransCanada Moves to Forcefully Suppress Tar Sands Blockade
By Kevin Gosztola / dissenter.firedoglake.com

Nine activists have committed themselves to blockading construction by TransCanada of the Keystone XL pipeline project through Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. The activists have established a position in trees that TransCanada must cut down in order to build the pipeline. They have decided to engage in nonviolent direct action to stop TransCanada from destroying land for the tar sands pipeline.

The resistance is getting under the skin of TransCanada. Just yesterday, as Jane Hamsher detailed, TransCanadaencouraged law enforcement to use torture tactics on blockaders. Now, three days into the blockade, TransCanada’s machinery for cutting down trees is twenty feet away from blockaders, a violation of federal safety regulations. The corporation is refusing to turn off their machinery and leave.

I spoke with Ron Seifert, a spokesperson for the Tar Sands Blockade. He recounted what happened to blockaders yesterday and then explained why activists find it critical to be out resisting construction of the tar sands pipeline.

*

KEVIN GOSZTOLA, The Dissenter: To start off, how long has the Tar Sands Blockade been engaging in action?

RON SEIFERT, spokesperson for the Tar Sands Blockade: The Tar Sands Blockade campaign launched in mid-August, however, the sustained tree blockade is now in its third day.

GOSZTOLA: How is the blockade being mounted? How are you blockading the Keystone XL pipeline project?

SEIFERT: There’s two different tactics being employed. There is a tree village. There are platforms and a full tree house, two-story tree condo, if you will, that are all connected via zip lines and traverses throughout an old oak forest. Altogether, there are over a dozen trees that span the entire pathway of the Keystone pipeline. Additionally, there is a scaffolding—a structural wall made of timber—and built along the top of that wall is a catwalk, an additional platform supporting blockaders as well. Between the timber wall and the tree blockade, there are nine different blockaders all dedicated to maintaining their positions and holding out as long as it takes to stop the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all.

GOSZTOLA: These structures were put in before construction was to begin?

SEIFERT: That is correct. Unfortunately, the massive project is ongoing at multiple locations, every day simultaneously. As much as the blockade wants to stop and protect every piece of land that is being destroyed and permanently scarred by construction as we speak, we understand that we have to hold basically one place and really dig in and this is a great opportunity to draw a line in the sand and let the world know that we are rising up to defend home. We are going to fight for a future with out the tar sands pipeline.

Shannon and Benjamin | Photo by Tar Sands Blockade

GOSZTOLA: I understand that some of the members, who have participated in the blockade, have been arrested. What can you say about the arrests?

SEIFERT: To date, there have been fourteen blockaders arrested at various construction sites for shutting down construction and protecting Texas land and Texas homes from construction. Yesterday was the most abusive confrontation with TransCanada and law enforcement. TransCanada supervisors encouraged law enforcement to use escalated pain compliance techniques on our blockaders. They stood by and watched while blockaders were effectively tortured. They were handcuffed into stress positions. While they were pepper sprayed and tasered, they were put into chokeholds. They were physically abused all while TransCanada supervisors watched and, when blockaders were removed from the scene and arrested, TransCanada supervisors thanked law enforcement and commended them on a job well done.

GOSZTOLA: So this is an escalation? In the days before, you didn’t see this sort of conduct?

SEIFERT: No, for the most part all of our interactions with law enforcement have been relatively civil. There was one encounter where a blockader was contorted into an uncomfortable position, but this is the first time that non-lethal weapons were used on blockaders and it is also the first time that they were handcuffed and physically restrained. Basically, law enforcement handcuffed blockaders to the equipment so they could not move, immobilized them, and then proceeded to use non-lethal weapons on them.

GOSZTOLA: Were the people arrested released? Were any of them injured by the use of weapons or torture tactics? Did they return to take positions in the blockade again?

SEIFERT: They do have bruises and emotional scarring from the incident. Of course, they were in overwhelming pain for periods of time for doing nothing more than peacefully protesting. There was absolutely nothing violent or not even one word uttered by the blockaders. It came from reports on site that it was at TransCanada’s discretion that these pain-inducing tactics were utilized.

As far as the blockader’ health, they are surprisingly in good spirits. They want to encourage folks across the country to not let these brutal tactics stand behind them and their conviction, that the only way we can stop this pipeline is to collectively rise up and show this multinational corporation that their brutality will not deter our resistance.

They are out of jail. They were released last night on bond. They were $2000 bails. They are with friends and family right now recovering.

Our Forest Defenders | Photo by Tar Sands Blockade

GOSZTOLA: Finally, what is at stake here? What does it mean that a multinational corporation, TransCanada, is recruiting law enforcement to suppress people who are resisting their construction?

SEIFERT: Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that TransCanada is recruiting the state to do its dirty work because they’ve already co-opted the state power of eminent domain, which is an extraordinary ability for a third party to seize unilaterally private property which is intended for a public good or a public use. In the case of the Keystone XL pipeline, this multinational corporation has been granted the ability to seize private property for their own private good, private gain. So, it’s an egregious overreach that is resulting in the transference of thousands of acres of private property in Texas to this multinational corporation so they can further enrich themselves.

To do this, this is all predicated on tar sands exploitation. Tar sands exploitation in Alberta [in Canada] is the most ecologically devastating project right now on planet Earth. And I know that sounds a bit hyperbolic but it truly is the case. Industry has earmarked over 53,000 square miles of boreal forest for clear-cut and strip-mining, forest area the size of New York state that will be permanently destroyed and permanently lifeless.

The amount of carbon that exists in the tar sands formation is enough to put Earth over the edge. Our global climate would never recover if every drop of tar sands is allowed to be mined, processed and burned. We simply don’t have the carbon budget for it, and, accordingly stopping the Keystone XL pipeline, which will open the floodgates to this type of exploitation, is a necessary condition for protecting a viable future on this planet. If we do not do this, it really is game over for future generations. This is something that must be stopped. It’s dangerous. It affects us all. And for those directly impacted that are in the lines of the pipeline itself, these are folks whose water and land are threatened and folks in most cases wanted nothing to do with this pipeline and were forced into harm’s way by TransCanada.

There’s a whole host of reasons why we oppose this pipeline. It’s too dangerous to exist andTarSandsBlockade.org offers the capacity anyone and everyone that wants to participate in stopping this thing to sign up and get plugged in. There’s room for all different levels of participation and we need help. Right now is the time. This is our moment and we’d love to hear from everyone out there.

Firedoglake (and Films For ActioN) is supporting the fight of the tar sands blockaders. Donate to send supplies to the blockaders here.

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 14,972 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 13,453 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
Rap News Special Edition: Hillary Clinton Vs Donald Trump
7 min · 10,822 views today · Hello world. RAP NEWS is back for a special episode on the 2016 USA Election mayhem, feat. Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump + a touch of Jill Stein & Gary Johnson. This one's...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 8,056 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 5,912 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
10 Shocking Facts About Society That We Absurdly Accept As Normal
Joe Martino · 5,591 views today · When you take a moment and look around at the world, things can appear pretty messed up. Take 5 or 10 minutes and watch the 6 o’clock news. Chances are, the entire time, all...
How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Maria Popova · 5,394 views today · “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”
The International Criminal Court May Start Prosecuting People Who Commit Crimes Against the Environment
Tara Smith · 5,163 views today · The International Criminal Court is not known for prosecuting people responsible for huge oil slicks, chopping down protected rainforests or contaminating pristine land. But...
Humanity's Greatest Challenges Aren't Technical, They're Human
8 min · 4,856 views today · Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is incomplete as we commonly know it. Later in his life, Maslow wrote about a stage beyond self-actualization. Nichol Brandford explains how to...
Caitlin Moran's Posthumous Advice for Her Daughter
Caitlin Moran · 4,853 views today · My daughter is about to turn 13 and I’ve been smoking a lot recently, and so – in the wee small hours, when my lungs feel like there’s a small mouse inside them, scratching to...
The Culture of Maximum Harm
Daniel Quinn · 4,682 views today · People have lived many different ways on this planet, but about ten thousand years ago there appeared one people who believed everyone in the world should live a single...
The Journey From Syria (2016)
71 min · 3,333 views today · Reporter Matthew Cassel spent a year documenting the journey of Syrian jeweler Aboud Shalhoub as he travels from Turkey to Greece, and through Eastern Europe to the Netherlands...
10 Photos That Show the Magnificent Light Shining on Standing Rock
Josue Rivas · 2,258 views today · Despite all the news of pipeline regulation, court appeals, and activist arrests, Native photographer Josue Rivas reminds us that it is actually a peaceful place.
The Left Deserves Better Than Jill Stein
Kate Aronoff · 1,908 views today · Stein’s Green Party run doesn’t offer a plan to win, or to build power. The Left is capable of so much more.
Prince Ea Just Put The School System on Trial and Found it Guilty of Killing Free Thought
6 min · 1,832 views today · Albert Einstien once said "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid". Today Prince...
The Little Engine That Couldn't: How We're Preparing Ourselves and Our Children for Extinction
Daniel Quinn · 1,738 views today · In a recent semi-documentary film called Garbage, a toxic waste disposal engineer was asked how we can stop engulfing the world in our poisons. His answer was, "We'd have to...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,205 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Debt, Inequality and the Logic of Financial Violence
David Graeber · 1,159 views today · Five years after Occupy, organizer and anthropologist David Graeber speaks to ROAR about the power of finance, the history of inequality and the legacy of the movement.
This Satirical Trump Vs. Bernie Debate Is Both Hilarious and Highly Disturbing
44 min · 1,127 views today · Comedians James Adomian (Bernie Sanders) and Anthony Atamanuik (Donald Trump) bring two of the most controversial candidates in history, head-to-head, or rather bald-to-toupee...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 1,093 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
What's at Stake as TransCanada Moves to Forcefully Suppress Tar Sands Blockade