Above photo: Appalachians Against Pipelines.
Second Sitter Remains.
Elliston, VA – On Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021, police extracted one of two tree sitters at the Yellow Finch blockade in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. A large crane was used to reach the tree sit from Yellow Finch Lane and extract the sitter, who had locked themself to the tree. They were arrested, charged with trespassing, and are being held without bond (set by the Montgomery County magistrate). Today is day 931 of the Yellow Finch Tree sits. As of 9:00 p.m., the second tree sitter remains in their blockade.
Wren, the tree sitter extracted today, stated: “If you’re reading this, it means I have been forcibly removed from this chestnut oak that myself and many other human and nonhuman creatures have called home during the last 931 days, through which this tree’s destruction has been prevented. As I think about the events that are likely to occur between my writing this and y’all reading it, I am not afraid. […] We must dare to imagine alternatives to the system, to tear it down and build something better from the rubble. […] With my arrest and Acre’s probable extraction, this one instance of resistance, this one physical place that is an enactment of our dreams of another world will fall. But these tree sits were one place out of many that have existed and that will exist, and the flames of resistance cannot be extinguished this easily. The fight continues, and the struggle for a better world always will.”
A tree sit supporter from nearby Bent Mountain stated: “The fact that state and local police and government have barred all — including the press — from a several mile radius from the tree sit area on a pipeline easement (which they share with a private landowner) in a residential community is beyond disturbing. The absence of a First Amendment eye on this operation presents concerns for the physical safety of all persons on this property. […] Under the wide ranging perimeter figuratively taped off by Montgomery and state police, and if state and local officials maintain their wide ranging blindfold and muzzle on the press, we will never truly know whose behavior amounted to any sort of wrongdoing. It would leave the public to ask: was that the plan? “
7 a.m.: Law enforcement arrived, including Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police. Nearby Cove Hollow Road was closed, blocking access to supporters, media, and legal observers, putting the safety of the tree sitters at risk.
Chainsaw crews cleared trees on the hill below the sits, and bulldozers began land excavation on the road. Police attempted to persuade tree sitters Acre and Robin to vacate the tree sits via a megaphone and messages to the Appalachians Against Pipelines Facebook page.
7:30 a.m.: Tree sit supporters rallied at the end of Cove Hollow Rd. Over 20 people came throughout the day to show support, holding signs such as “I <3 Yellow Finch Tree Sits” and “No Pipeline.”
12:30 p.m.: A crane was brought down Yellow Finch Lane. Land excavation and tree clearing continued and the crane was prepared.
4 p.m.: Montgomery county Board of Supervisor Sara Bohn and Commonwealth’s Attorney for Montgomery County Mary Pettit were granted access to the area.
6 p.m.: Police used the crane to reach one of the tree sits where Wren had locked to the tree using a lockbox. Police cut through the lockbox and Wren was extracted. Once on the ground Wren was arrested without any noticeable injuries. They are being held without bond.
The Yellow Finch tree sit blockade was erected in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline on September 5, 2018. Last November, a Montgomery County court issued an injunction against the sitters and supporters on the ground, after which the ground support camp was vacated but tree sitters remained.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a 42-inch diameter, 300-plus mile, fracked gas pipeline that runs from northern West Virginia to southern Virginia, with a proposed 70-mile extension into North Carolina. The Mountain Valley Pipeline contributes to climate change, increases demand for natural gas (and as a result, fracking), and is entrenched in corrupt political processes. It endangers water, ecosystems, and communities along its route. Despite initial claims that the gas transported by the MVP would be for domestic use, MVP has since admitted that much of the gas is destined for overseas export. Although Mountain Valley Pipeline claims to be concerned for the health and safety of residents along the route and of people opposed to the pipeline, time and again this billion dollar private corporation has proven to care only about maximizing their profit — from flipping excavators on the job to causing landslides and sinkholes, MVP continues to risk the lives of residents, protesters, and even its own workers.
Currently, MVP’s construction is 3 years behind schedule (tripling the proposed construction schedule) and $2.7 billion dollars over budget — and counting. The company still lacks final approval for key permits, including those governing the Jefferson National Forest and water crossings along the route.