People all across Pennsylvania, the US, and the world are resisting fossil fuel expansion.
I am particularly humbled and inspired by the Standing Rock Sioux. Last year, they bravely stood up to protect our planet from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Many indigenous nations, US army veterans and other allies joined them and endured water cannons, severe injury and arrest.
Like so many others, I have been voting, lobbying, testifying and organizing around energy issues for years. We have not made nearly enough progress. As recent weather catastrophes have shown, our earthly home is in crisis. We need to step up our game. I am so grateful to Lancaster Against Pipelines (LAP) for giving me that opportunity.
LAP has been resisting the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline for over three years. This high pressure line would run from north to south through Lancaster County, connecting to other pipelines. The fuel will be shipped overseas to the highest bidder. Like all fracked gas pipelines, the fuel will certainly leak, resulting in severely polluted air, water and soil. It may even explode. This all volunteer group has testified, written articles, met with politicians and done everything legally possible to stop this insanity before the first bulldozer arrived. Now they are willing to risk arrest.
On October 20, I received a text from LAP that an action was being planned for the next day. The pipes are being put together much more quickly than predicted and people were needed. Toma, a trusty activist friend, was available to drive us to the site, in Columbia, PA, only an hour and a half from Philly, where we live.
We arrived at a spot tucked between a housing development, a park, and cornfields. Outdoor wooden benches face a simple altar, creating a chapel. Behind that is a fence, installed by Williams Partners, after they took land from the Adorers of the Blood of Christ to build the pipeline.
People spoke in small groups as we gathered. We met friendly local residents and people from Philly as well as New York. Some were Catholics, Mennonites, Quakers and some were not religiously affiliated. Three people installed scaffolding in order to be able to see over the fence. Soon, the co-founder of Lancaster Against Pipelines, Mark Clatterbuck welcomed us. Good humor was shown, including a thanks to Williams Partners for putting up the fence so that we would have something to decorate. Symbolic necklaces and applause were given to those known as the Chapel 23, the 23 people who were arrested a few days before when surrounding construction equipment.
After a short break, we met up again to discuss the action for the day. Clearly, core leaders had already put thought into what we might do. They checked in with the group to find out how many were willing to risk arrest. Everyone nodded in agreement with LAP principles of no physical or verbal violence towards people or property.
In preparation, we signed forms with emergency contact information so that volunteer jail supporters could contact loved ones. We emptied our pockets of everything but an id, bail money and a password protected (not thumbprint protected) phone. And, we wrote a phone number of a jail supporter on ourselves. We didn’t know how long we would be indisposed.
Six of us held a quilt across one construction entrance to prevent any equipment from moving onto the site. The quilt was made by many and depicts squares about the importance of land and dangers of fracking. Sean, a Catholic worker from New York, led us in rousing songs:
We will rise like water
and face this crisis now;
I hear the voice of my great grand daughter
saying stop this pipeline now.
I had a strong feeling that this is exactly where I needed to be.
There seemed to be workers milling around on the site, but not much actual work getting done. Oddly, the police themselves blocked the road so that no one could drive to that site entrance. Perhaps they didn’t want us to get the publicity that comes with arrests. Leaders directed us to walk to the other site entrance where we quickly blocked a truck from driving in. As we continued to sing, we were handcuffed with zip ties, put into a van and driven a short distance to a state police station. Sitting on chairs, with our hands behind our backs and cuffs digging into our wrists, we had time to get to know each other, and became the Quilt 6.
Processing took about an hour and a half. When we got out, a crowd of supporters cheered. We went out to a nearby restaurant for a convivial get together. A supporter I had just met drove me to the train station for the ride home.
I am now waiting for paperwork to arrive so that I know when to go to court for my misdemeanor. Lawyers have volunteered to work for free for LAP arrestees. I encourage others to consider participating in similar actions with those you trust. Keep in mind that police treatment, processing time and sentencing varies considerably. We were treated well because of our white skin and because LAP had done lots of work beforehand, preparing the police for a general idea of what was to come. Red Fawn has been in jail for an entire year waiting for trial for her Dakota Access Pipeline resistance.
Submitted by Ann Dixon, 350 Philadelphia volunteer