Four Charged With Felonies for Action Against Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline Expansion
Facing 2-3 years of jail time, defendants from the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands plead their case in court today
UPDATE: Lisa, Barb, and Vicci have been charged with a misdemeanor for trespassing and a felony for resisting and obstructing. Their case will be moving on to circuit court on September 18.
Mason, Mich. — In peaceful protest at a worksite in Stockbridge, MI on Monday, July 22, four people from the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI CATS) locked themselves to destruction equipment working on the expansion of Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline, the same pipeline that burst in 2010 and spilled more than one million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo community. This action halted construction of Enbridge’s pipeline expansion for the majority of the day. All four were arrested and have since been charged with felonies. Their charge is “resisting and obstructing,” a charge similar to that of assaulting a police officer. They are now facing 2-3 years in jail. Despite the fact that in Michigan there is an option to charge individuals with “resisting and obstructing” on a misdemeanor level, these peaceful protesters are being punished to an unusual extent with this unnecessary felony charge.
Having exhausted existing legal and regulatory avenues, these protestors were compelled to take direct action with MI CATS against Enbridge, a key player in the tar sands industry known for its negligence and carelessness. Enbridge’s expansion of line 6B has moved forward without any opportunity for public input or intervention, as Enbridge shirked the presidential permitting process that would typically be required for a project of this nature. Because of this, they have not had to consider public input or submit any environmental impact statements for consideration. The Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands believes that tar sands development is exploitative, racist, and oppressive at every point in its lifecycle, from where it is mined on indigenous land in Alberta to where it is refined in poor, urban communities of color.
“Since there is no longer any political or legal recourse left to us, we have only two options,” said Al Smith, a supporter of the MI CATS action on July 22. “We can either close our eyes and focus on ourselves, our families, and our friends and try to find some solace while hiding from this overwhelming sense of doom and powerlessness or we can take a stand. It’s painful and frightening to put ourselves on the line and it doesn’t feel good to know we are stopping people like us from doing their jobs and to tie up so many public safety officers, but we believe there is no painless way to bring about a change that is necessary. We feel our willingness to sacrifice our own safety and comfort is a place to start.”
Similar desperation and compassion was expressed by Lisa Leggio, one of the defendants being seen in court today. “As a mother, I am filled with urgency in the defense of our Mother Earth against tar sands extractions,” she said. “We must find alternative solutions that are more viable in sustaining this planet and the life that inhabits it.”
The Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands seeks to unite the people of Michigan towards a common goal of stopping all transportation and refining of tar sands oil in the state and advocates against the production and transportation of tar sands everywhere. MI CATS stands in steadfast solidarity with affected landowners, indigenous communities, and all those working for a more just and sustainable planet. As Enbridge continues its reckless profiteering through the state of Michigan and on this continent, the MI CATS will be there to greet them, demanding an end to industrial exploitation propagated by companies like Enbridge.
“The care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy responsibility,” urged defendant Vicci Hamlin. “To cherish what remains of it is our only hope for ourselves and our future generations. If not us then who, if not now then when?”