by Elizabeth King, The Progressive, October 6, 2019.
Lawmakers are ramping up penalties for protesters who take the kind of drastic action needed to save the planet.
It was May of this year, and Alex (a pseudonym) was physically attached to cement-filled tires inside a section of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia. The project, an under-construction natural gas pipeline owned by Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, will span the Virginias and poses a major threat to the local ecology, including many endangered species.
After police arrived at the scene, a state trooper used a rope to drag Alex from the pipe, feet first. “What was going through my mind was, ‘Try not to say anything that will be considered a threat of terrorism, because they’ve been charging people with that,’ ” Alex tells The Progressive.
Just a month before, twenty-two-year-old activist Holden Dometrius became the first Mountain Valley Pipeline protester to be charged with a terrorism crime, after he chained himself to construction equipment. Two more protesters were charged soon afterward for similar offenses, and dozens of people have been arrested since. Activists have now been using direct action to block construction of the pipeline in West Virginia for more than a year.
After being removed from the pipeline, Alex was brought to the police station, facing two felonies and a terrorism charge—exactly what Alex had feared.
Such charges are part of a wave of penalties faced by eco-activists in recent years, spurred in part by new laws passed in the wake of the massive protests near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. For Michael Loadenthal, visiting assistant professor of sociology and social justice at Miami University in Ohio and an expert on the repression of social movements, these penalties indicate a resurgence of the Green Scare.
photo credit Jason Raish.
PA Senate Bill 652 re penalties for trespass on critical infrastructure.