By Emma Fiala, Mintpressnews.com
Forcible Arrest Of Water Protectors At Illegal Pipeline Construction Site In Louisiana
Above Photo: St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s deputies can be seen arresting Water Protectors attempting to halt construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, Sept. 4, 2018. (L’eau Est La Vie Camp Facebook Page)
Water Protectors were granted written permission by the landowner to be present at the site. This did not stop St. Martin Parish sheriffs from engaging in physical altercations with the protectors while attempting to drive them from the private land.
ATCHAFALAYA BASIN, LOUISIANA — Four Water Protectors were brutally arrested in the Atchafalaya Basin along the Bayou Bridge Pipeline route in Louisiana on Tuesday. Water Protectors have been attempting to halt Energy Transfer Partners’ illegal construction of the pipeline.
Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) is the same company responsible for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which was met with significant resistance from the local indigenous population in North Dakota as well as from their allies from across the country. ETP and its hired security frequently engaged in violent tactics against peaceful Water Protectors on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, with the help of both local police and police from surrounding states. If completed, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline (BBP) will connect with the DAPL system.
The BBP is slated to transport crude oil originating from the Bakken Oil fields of North Dakota. The pipeline is to run 162 miles from southeast Texas to St. James, Louisiana. The oil transported would enter international markets.
Law enforcement ignores legalities and protectors’ rights
Water Protectors were granted written permission by the landowner to be present at the site. This did not stop St. Martin Parish sheriffs from engaging in physical altercations with the protectors while attempting to drive them from the private land. Water Protectors say that local parish sheriffs are being used as private security for the pipeline company. ETP has yet to gain permission for construction from the landowner and does not have the proper easement. Despite this, the company has continued construction.
According to a press release regarding Tuesday’s incident:
Water Protectors contend that there is no easement agreement between ETP and [the landowner] Theda Wright, rendering all construction on Wright’s land illegal. They demand that ETP cease illegal construction of the pipeline, end the attacks on Water Protectors, create and implement an effective evacuation route for those directly affected by their pipeline, and release those arrested today. Water Protectors will remain on Wright’s property indefinitely.”
“I’ve been asked to protect this piece of land and I intend to do it.” said Cherri Foytlin, a Water Protector and L’eau est la Vie camp council member. Foytlin was one of four Water Protectors violently arrested on Tuesday after the group surrounded the illegal construction site.
According to NoBBP.org, at least three of those arrested “are facing trumped up felony charges.” The group’s website states that sheriff’s deputies used pepper spray and batons on Water Protectors in an attempt to use pain to gain compliance, highlighting that Water Protectors have permission to be present on the land, unlike ETP.
A short video of Foytlin’s arrest was posted on Facebook. She can be heard telling viewers “we need you here, we need you here now,” while Water Protectors and police can be heard scuffling in the background.
Supporters took to Twitter to express their outrage:
This is my friend @CherriFoytlin1 being brutally arrested for protecting her native lands. For protecting water. For fighting against climate change. For trying to stop a fracked oil pipeline in Louisiana. This is white supremacy. This is the oil industry. This is a crime. pic.twitter.com/Iy1hmQyzrb
— Josh Fox (@joshfoxfilm) September 5, 2018
Public pressure results in release pending trial of the St. James Four
Water Protectors were initially informed by the St. Martin Sheriff’s Department that bail would be denied for the four violently arrested on Tuesday and that all would be held in jail until Friday of this week. Water Protectors were urging supporters and allies to call the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s office as well as Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards to demand the release of the four and to allow them to receive needed medications and medical care. An update posted yesterday to NoBBP.org indicated that bail was set at a total of $63,500 for the four.
According to the L’eau est la Vie Facebook page, all four Water Protectors have been released, indicating that the pressure placed on the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s office was successful. The post also included a video recap of Tuesday’s events, in addition to a mass action that took place the previous day.
A post on Foytlin’s Facebook page reads:
I want to thank you all for your support. I’m free… I’m sore, they messed up my shoulder… they’re erroneously charging me with 3 felonies and several misdemeanors.
I will rest, heal up, and I will continue to stand to protect our water and to ensure a safe evacuation route for the St. James community of Freetown.”
Fifty people shut down a section of the BBP on Monday at the same location.
In the video below, Foytlin can be seen speaking after the St. Martin’s Parish Sheriff’s Department attempted to arrest her.
Monday was also the second anniversary of the day ETP unleashed attack dogs on Water Protectors at Standing Rock.
This week’s arrests come on the heels of the August 20 arrest of three Water Protectors and one journalist covering the situation. They were charged with felony interference with critical infrastructure, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Police used tasers on Water Protectors in addition to denying them food, water, and needed medical attention.
For more information about the resistance against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline and to find out how you can help, visit NoBBP.org.