Direct Action: First Person- Keystone Tar Sands

Tar Sands Blockade: Why are they so frightened of us? (#NoKXL)

By: Benjamin Franklin, Firedog Lake

Monday October 1, 2012 8:49 am

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?

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.

They started like schoolyard bullies – taunting us while twisting my arm behind me, and jumping on my back to put me in a choke hold. The lieutenant asked, “Is your goal just to go to jail? You can go to jail without the pain; it’s your stubbornness that’s making us do this.” I had to stop myself from replying, “I wish this cup would pass me by.” I didn’t say it because I was sure they would misinterpret it as blasphemously casting myself as Jesus, but I meant it; I wished there was another way to accomplish our goals. I wasn’t looking forward to what my time with the ACLU led me to expect they would do to us. But I don’t believe in giving in to terrorism; to follow one’s moral compass in spite of extreme challenges is the way we move forward.

A taser is sold as a weapon-tool for halting controlled motion: to make someone stop. While the torture device was on, I was able to remain standing and silent, but the pain was intense. I could not have gathered the concentration required to detach the carabiner even if the pipe hadn’t twisted it out of my grasp.

I had a few seconds to clear my head, then he switched to my upper left arm – the arm where they had handcuffed me. It’s hard to describe. The world was pain, and I repeated Valerie’s quote from V for Vendetta to myself as I heard the lieutenant speculate to the TransCanada supervisor that my fat was insulating me, making it harder for the taser to “bite into the meat,” which is why it wasn’t hurting me as much as they were hoping. The pain was fluid, and by the fifth second, my left pectoral muscle was tingling. But like all things, it passed. The pain, like the fear, washed through. The taunting, however, continued.

The officers informed us that I was too “mule-headed” to be chivalrous and spare Rain pain I had just experienced. When they moved on to torture Rain, the young Wood County deputy who had been selected to taser her was reluctant. He asked if he really had to; he interrupted his count to ask if she was sure she wouldn’t let go.

As soon as we were fully in custody, the TransCanada supervisor thanked the Wood County lieutenant for “a job well done.” The lieutenant’s reply? “If this happens again, we’ll just skip to using pepper spray and tasing in the first 10 minutes.”

TransCanada Urges Texas Police to Use "Aggressive Pain Compliance Tactics&quot on Keystone XL Blockaders

By: Jane Hamsher, Firedog Lake

Wednesday September 26, 2012 1:23 pm

I spoke with Sprague today about the use of physical force against two protesters, Shannon Bebe and Benjamin Franklin, who handcuffed themselves to equipment being used to cut down trees so that the southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline could be built.

According to Sprague, Bebe and Franklin began their peaceful protest yesterday at 10:30 am, along with several observers.  Sprague indicated that the group’s interactions with the police had been amicable and peaceful until TransCandada representatives showed up and encouraged the police to “run off” the observers.

Once there were no cameras in sight, Sprague says that TransCanada officials huddled with police.  Shortly thereafter, the police commenced putting Bebe and Franklin in stress positions by bending their free arms backwards as far as possible and twisting their handcuffed hands backwards, and holding them there for 10 minutes.

Police then tasered both Bebe and Franklin.  Franklin was tased a second time, and the two relented when police threatened to keep tasering them until they did so.  Sprague said that because of a heart condition, one of the protesters feared for their life.  Franklin described the pain as “immense and almost physically unbearable.”

There is no way to classify the use of such tactics against people who cannot defend themselves other than torture.  Which the protesters indicate was carried out, by the police, and the specific request of TransCanada.

I do not have the words to fully express my admiration for what Franklin and Bebe were willing to do in order to stop this pipeline from being (literally) railroaded through the country, against the will of its citizens – especially those whose lands are being seized.  They are true heroes and their courage and conviction are inspirational.

Keystone XL Body Blockaders Need Help

By: Jane Hamsher, Firedog Lake

Wednesday September 26, 2012 7:49 am

Activists climbed 80 feet to set up “Tree Village” and locked themselves to critical machinery directly in the path of the planned oil pipeline. They have pledged to stay there until construction has stopped once and for all, but living in a tree or chained to machinery, exposed to the elements, is no easy task.

Work on the Keystone XL pipeline can’t continue until the Blockaders have been removed, so Firedoglake is sending supplies to help demonstrators stay in the way for as long as possible.

TransCanada Tarsands Blockade Call Reports

By: Jane Hamsher, Firedog Lake

Thursday September 27, 2012 12:16 pm

Today we launched calls into TransCanada’s offices protesting the treatment of Tarsands Blockade activists, who report they were tortured by police after a huddle with TransCanda representatives.

You can sign the petition demanding TransCanada CEO Russell Girling denounce the torture of the Keystone XL Blockaders.

Then call TransCanada’s corporate offices to demand immediate action.


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  1. but she’s doing a good job on Keystone issues.

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