Three defendants from the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands begin trial today, facing felony charges and 2-3 years in prison for peaceful protest
Mason, Mich. — Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI CATS) defendants Vicci Hamlin, Lisa Leggio, and Barbara Carter are facing felony charges of resisting and obstructing for peacefully protesting the expansion of Enbridge tar sands pipelines through the state of Michigan. Even though their actions were completely peaceful and nonviolent, they are being charged with a felony resisting and obstructing charge which is the equivalent to assaulting an officer. They face 2-3 years in prison. “I could never look into my grandchildren’s eyes or even in the mirror if I didn’t do what I felt was right in my heart,” said Hamlin of the action she took against Enbridge in Stockbridge, Michigan. “All my life my heroes have been people who have taken a stand against injustice. I am honored to follow in their footsteps and to take a stand for the earth, for the people I love, and for future generations. That’s why I did what I did and that’s why I am willing to go to prison if I must.”
The defendants acted out of what they deem “environmental necessity.” In 2010, Enbridge spilled over 1,000,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan. It is estimated that at least 20% of this oil remains in the riverbed, as tar sands oil sinks when spilled. In addition, it has recently been uncovered that Enbridge used harmful chemical dispersants to reduce the gallons of oil for which they would be fined. These dispersants and the chemicals present in tar sands oil have caused major health problems all across lower western Michigan, some which have led to death.
Time and time again, it has been evident that people must be proactive in defending their communities from industrial exploitation. Just a few weeks ago, a chemical spill by the coal company Freedom Industries in West Virginia has left over 300,000 people in nine different counties without useable and drinkable water. Last week, Enbridge reported their Alberta Clipper pipeline leaking 5,000 gallons of tar sands oil for unknown reasons. This is the same line that links into Line 5, the 60-year-old pipeline that sits at the bottom of the Mackinac Straits. With the expansion of the Alberta Clipper, Enbridge intends to double the capacity of Line 5 by increasing pressure at the pump stations without any updates to the line itself, a line whose support struts are broken and now floats just above or on the lake floor .
On Monday morning, jury selection will begin for the trial. MI CATS and community members will show their support by peacefully gathering outside the courthouse in the morning and being present for the duration of trial.