2:14 am in Uncategorized by Benjamin Franklin
When I remember what happened, I remember the beauty first. The blue sky, the soaring hawk, the oak sapling mangled by the backhoe we’d stopped. That oak was very inspirational to us as we awaited our fate. By surviving TransCanada’s clear-cutting, it symbolized our own plans to weather the forces marshalled against us.
It was Tuesday, September the 25th. I was anchored to the back of heavy machinery with someone I’d just met. We’d both travelled to East Texas to help derail TransCanada’s massive tar sands pipeline. Climate change is a global problem, but this terribly destructive project was coming right to our backyard; how could I sit idly by?
For years now, TransCanada has been abusing eminent domain to expropriate Texans’ land for their phenomenally wasteful pipeline. Years of political lobbying had led to project delays, but had been insufficient to stop TransCanada from breaking ground. Despite multiple lawsuits, TransCanada was busy clear-cutting forests on disputed land, and so I joined TarSandsBlockade.org – a nonviolent direct action campaign started to stop the KXL Pipeline.
I joined the Tar Sands Blockade for three reasons. One: We hoped to prevent the tar sands carbon bomb from being released, with the goal of preventing catastrophic levels of climate change. Two: As a proud member of Occupy Houston, I felt I had a responsibility to help prevent a multinational company from perverting Texas law so it might misuse eminent domain for its own private gain. Three: A belief, rooted in my Unitarian Universalism, that I have a duty to assist nonviolent tactics and help demonstrate that they are a successful path to change.
Things began calmly enough. Around 10 a.m., a small group of us discovered a backhoe that was working on a path perhaps a thousand feet away from – and rapidly approaching – the trees containing our friends’ aerial blockade. We had a chance to delay the threat; we took it. At a run, we approached the machine. The driver stopped promptly, and Rain and I attached ourselves to the hydraulic arm at the back with a “lockbox” — in this case, a steel pipe modified so that we could latch via carabiners onto a center pin. Rain and I had known each other for less than a day, but now I can’t imagine enduring what happened without her.
TransCanada’s workers were upset when we locked ourselves onto their machine, but the situation remained verbal and stayed peaceful, if tense, for hours, until around two o’clock in the afternoon. Even after the arrival of the local police, we knew we were still in civilization; one of the TransCanada workers brought us water so quickly and quietly that the officers watching us didn’t even notice. When things changed, they changed suddenly and with startling brutality.
It started with the arrival of TransCanada’s senior supervisor. The regular employees became scarce as the supervisor called for a huddle with the police. The huddle broke and a phalanx of officers marched on us to announce that we were under arrest. Failing to unlock immediately was resisting, which would result in additional charges and justify the officers’ use of “pain compliance.” I suppose TransCanada had grown tired of waiting.