Yesterday two Texans, Shannon Bebe and Benjamin Franklin, were subjected to torture tactics at the hands of police under the active encouragement of TransCanada senior supervisors. Bebe and Franklin were exercising their constitutional rights to nonviolent protest when they locked themselves to Keystone XL construction machinery outside Winnsboro, Texas and delayed construction for most of the day. Police began using aggressive pain compliance tactics when a senior TransCanada supervisor named John arrived and actively encouraged it. Torture tactics included; sustained chokeholds, violent arm-twisting, pepper spray, and multiple uses of Tasers, all while blockaders where in handcuffs.
Immediately following TransCanada’s consultation, law enforcement handcuffed the protesters’ free hands to the heavy machinery in stress positions and then subjected to repeated torture tactics by four police officers while TransCanada employees stood by and watched.
With the news that their friends had been tortured with TransCanada’s approval, the eight original tree sitters were bravely joined by another, expanding the tree blockade further as TransCanada’s clear-cutting heavy machinery rapidly approaches. Construction is roughly 300 yards away from the tree blockade. All refuse to come down until TransCanada halts its dangerous pipeline project.
Extraordinarily, despite their torture, the two endured for over five hours, affirming their courageous stance that taking action now is less of a risk than doing nothing. Watch the coverage on Democracy Now!
“As someone who has a religious dedication to nonviolence, I have a duty to assist nonviolent tactics. This is a path to change that works. Despite everything that happened at the direction of TransCanada, I don’t regret my involvement at all. I encourage everyone to persevere in the face of this type of sheer brutality. To follow one’s moral compass in spite of extreme challenges is the way we move forward towards a more humane, tar sands-free planet,” Franklin said after he was tortured Tuesday.
A plain-clothes police officer was among the aggressive officers to implement torture tactics. He put Franklin in a chokehold cutting off his breathing, and bent him over backwards in an attempt to make him pass out. Franklin reports difficulty swallowing because of bruises sustained to his esophagus.
The most physically aggressive was the ranking officer, a Lieutenant with the Wood County Sheriff Department under the observation of TransCanada employees. He twisted and contorted the tube that Bebe and Franklin had locked their arms into, cutting off circulation to their hands and cutting abrasions into their hands and forearms.
Franklin and Bebe then describe pepper spray as the most painful part of their ordeal. Police sprayed into their lockdown tube, and the chemicals burned their already-open wounds.
Fortunately they were able to make it through their mutual torture by intimating personal reassurances to each other. Franklin and Bebe say they were able to endure the pain knowing that they were in it together. Despite the immense pain our brave blockaders remained locked to the machinery for several hours – determined to stop this toxic tar sands pipeline.
After the pepper spray didn’t work the police again conferred with TransCanada employees before sending someone back to the police car to bring a taser. Franklin and Bebe were each tased for one second. Then Franklin was tased for 5 entire seconds. He described the pain as immense and almost physically unbearable.
They were eventually removed when it was clear that TransCanada was willing to do whatever it took to increase pain levels to physically unbearable levels.
After the torture session ended, John, the senior TransCanada supervisor openly congratulated the aggressive Sheriffs Department Lieutenant on a “job well done.” To which the Lieutenant replied: “if this happens again we’ll just skip to using pepper spray and tasing in the first 10 minutes.”
The level of brutality inflicted on peaceful protestors Tuesday demonstrates TransCanada’s blatant disregard for the safety of our friends and family. Police worked hand-in-glove with TransCanada supervisors to torture nonviolent protesters. Tar Sands Blockade pledges to resist all forms of violent intimidation with our sustained campaign of peaceful nonviolence to stop the dangerous tar sands pipeline for good. We will not be deterred.