*More Than 100 Protesters Take Over TransCanada’s Keystone XL Offices in Houston* MEDIA RELEASE: Jan 7, 2013 Contact: Kim Huynh, Tar Sands Blockade, 940-268-5375, firstname.lastname@example.org<https://fruiteater.riseup.net/sm/src/compose.php?send_to=kxlblockade%40gmail.com> Liveblog and photos: http://tarsandsblockade.org/houston-action-transcanada-offices * * *Tar Sands Blockade Proclaims Next Phase of Organizing with Largest-Yet Action* *HOUSTON, TX, JANUARY 3, 2013 12:00PM*: Over 100 blockaders stormed the lobby of TransCanada’s Keystone XL office in Houston this morning. Protesters danced, spilled black ‘tar sands’ balloons and hung neon orange hazard tape to highlight the deadly effects of TransCanada’s corporate greed on communities and ecosystems. After being forced out of the lobby by police, the protesters gathered on the sidewalk and performed street theatre in which a “pipe dragon” puppet destroyed homes and poisoned water until being slain by knights representing the grassroots coalition of Tar Sands Blockade, Idle No More, Earth First and others. Today’s action was the largest yet in the months-long campaign by climate justice organizers and Texas landowners against the pipeline and the first mass action in Houston targeting TransCanada corporate offices directly. It kicks off a new phase of Blockade organizing, targeting the corporate, political and financial infrastructure behind the Keystone XL pipeline with solidarity actions planned across the country this week, including in Austin, Detroit and New York City. Activist collective Anonymous today released the personal information of TransCanada executives and Keystone XL’s financial backers in solidarity with the launch of the Blockade’s new strategy phase. Protesters are currently chained together and actively occupying TransCanada’s offices near Boston. “From the Texas backwoods to the corporate boardrooms, the fight to defend our homes from toxic tar sands will not be ignored,” said Ramsey Sprague, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson. “We’re here today to directly confront the TransCanada executives who’re continuing on with business as usual while making our communities sacrifice zones.” Last Thursday, a tree blockade near Diboll, TX brought TransCanada’s illegal practices to light, showing that they hadn’t received permission from the county commissioner to build the pipeline through county land. In addition to land and water concerns, the Keystone XL pipeline is a classic case of environmental racism. In Houston, the low-income neighborhoods near refineries, such as Manchester, whose residents are 90% Latino, will have to breathe the noxious wastes of the tar sands refining process. “We’ve done everything we can to stop this pipeline: we’ve petitioned, rallied and taken direct action. The historic resistance to this pipeline shows how risky an investment this and other tar sands pipelines have become,” said Alec Johnson, one of the office blockaders. “Tar sands oil spilling into our waterways and millions of tons of carbon pollution spilling into the atmosphere means that this industry’s days are numbered.” #### 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. For more information visit tarsandsblockade.org or follow us at @KXLBlockade.
For immediate release December 3, 2012 Contact: Kim Huynh, Tar Sands Blockade, 940-268-5375, *email@example.com *
Check the live blog for breaking updates and video: http://tarsandsblockade.org/14th-action/
Photos with visuals inside and outside the pipe will be available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tarsandsblockade/
Two People Barricade Themselves Inside Keystone XL Pipe To Halt Construction
Using Completely Unprecedented Technique, Blockaders Barricade Unburied Segment of Pipe in Solidarity with Anti-Extraction Struggles Across North America
*WINONA, TX – MONDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2012 7:30 AM –* Several protesters with Tar Sands Blockade sealed themselves inside a section of pipe destined for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to stop construction of the dangerous project. Using a blockading technique never implemented before, Matt Almonte and Glen Collins locked themselves between two barrels of concrete weighing over six hundred pounds each. Located twenty-five feet into a pipe segment waiting to be laid in the ground, the outer barrel is barricading the pipe’s opening and neither barrel can be moved without risking serious injury to the blockaders.
The barricaded section of the pipeline passes through a residential neighborhood in Winona, TX. If TransCanada moves ahead with the trenching and burying of this particular section of pipe, it would run less than a hundred feet from neighboring homes. Tar sands pipelines threaten East Texas communities with their highly toxic contents, which pose a greater risk to human health than conventional crude oil. TransCanada’s existing tar sands pipeline, Keystone XL’s predecessor, has an atrocious safety record, leaking twelve times in its first year of operation.
“TransCanada didn’t bother to ask the people of this neighborhood if they wanted to have millions of gallons of poisonous tar sands pumped through their backyards,” said Almonte, one of the protesters now inside the pipeline. “This multinational corporation has bullied landowners and expropriated homes to fatten its bottom line.”
Recently, over 40 communities worldwide planned actions with Tar Sands Blockade during a week of resistance against extreme energy extraction and its direct connection to the climate crisis. A growing global movement is rising up against the abuses of the fossil fuel industry and its increasingly desperate pursuit of dangerous extraction methods.
“I’m barricading this pipe with Tar Sands Blockade today to say loud and clear to the extraction industry that our communities and the resources we depend on for survival are not collateral damage,” said Collins, another blockader inside the pipe and an organizer with Radical Action for Mountain Peoples Survival (RAMPS) and Mountain Justice, grassroots campaigns in Appalachia working to stop mountaintop removal coal mining.
“This fight in East Texas against tar sands exploitation is one and the same as our fight in the hollers of West Virginia. Dirty energy extraction doesn’t just threaten my home; it threatens the collective future of the planet.”
“At this late stage, doing nothing is a greater danger than the risks of taking direct action to stop destructive projects like Keystone XL,” said Ron Seifert, a spokesperson for Tar Sands Blockade. “That’s why folks working with groups like RAMPS, the Unist’ot’en Camp fighting a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia and Tar Sands Blockade are willing to use everything including their own hands and feet to ensure we all have a safe climate and healthy, thriving communities.”
Today also marks day 5 of the Houston Hunger Strike in which Gulf Coast activists with Tar Sands Blockade are going without food to demand that Valero divest entirely from the Keystone XL pipeline and invest in the health and wellbeing of the communities it’s poisoning.
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 multi-site 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-decimated 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.
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.