Tar sands blockaders arrested, accuse police of torture
September 27, 2012
Two anti-tar sands pipeline activists were arrested in east Texas on Tuesday as demonstrators continue a three-day-old tree-sit to block TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.
Shannon Bebe of Dallas and Benjamin Franklin of Houston delayed pipeline construction for most of the day when they locked arms around construction machinery being used by TransCanada to build the southern branch of a pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
Tar Sands Blockade spokesman Ron Seifert told ENS that the two were subjected to “torture tactics” by police but only after TransCanada senior supervisors spoke with Wood County law enforcement officials.
“Police were on the scene, interacting with the blockaders peacefully,” said Seifert, “until TransCanada supervisors arrived and had a huddle with police. After that, the police used pain techniques.”
Police handcuffed the protesters’ free hands to the heavy machinery in stress positions and proceeded to use sustained chokeholds, violent arm-twisting, pepper spray, and repeated tasering to coerce the two to abandon their protest, Seifert said, while TransCanada personnel stood by and watched.
“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,” Seifert said.
Tuesday afternoon Bebe and Franklin were taken into custody by officers and jailed by the Wood County Sheriff in Quitman, Texas.
The Tar Sands Blockade bailed them out Tuesday evening for $2,000 each and they are now with friends and supporters in Wood County.
“It was traumatizing experience, but they came through it strong and composed,” said Seifert. “They have a message – they want to encourage people everywhere to stand by their convictions and resist this dangerous pipeline project. We cannot let this brutality intimidate a necessary fight for our future.”
The protesters warn that as the heavy crude oil called bitumen is extracted from Canadian oil sands, the production process fouls the air and consumes enormous amounts of water. If the pipeline is ruptured and spills the diluted bitumen in transport, environmental devastation would result, and as it is burned, further climate warming occurs.
Meanwhile, a ninth demonstrator has climbed a 80-foot high tree platform to join eight others who went aloft onto several platforms Monday. They have pledged not to come down until the pipeline is stopped permanently.
The six men and three women have safety equipment and food supplies to last for weeks, Seifert said.
As long as TransCanada does not attempt to continue felling the trees, the tree sitters will be safe, he said.
“Yes, they could murder someone by cutting down the trees they’re sitting in,” said Seifert. “We assume they would not murder blockaders. We’ll have to wait and see what confrontation with TransCanada will look like.”
TransCanada intends to construct the Keystone XL pipeline to carry heavy oil from Canada’s tar sands from Hardisty, Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
With Canadian regulatory approval received from the National Energy Board in 2010, the Keystone XL Pipeline awaits approval from U.S. regulators.
In 2011, President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada’s Presidential Permit application, which is a requirement for building a cross border pipeline, but only because the Republicans in Congress pushed him to approve it within 60 days, before a final route through Nebraska had been approved.
On May 4 TransCanada reapplied to the U.S. Department of State for the permit. The company says it “anticipates” approval of the Presidential Permit application in time to allow for an in-service date of 2015.
The company is moving ahead with the sections of the pipeline, such as the one in east Texas, that lie wholly within the United States and do not need presidential approval.