Shutting down the Uintah Basin Energy Summit: “A message to all of you short-sighted killers”

“Disorderly Conduct” by Sidhe, a message to US Oil Sands and other killers

 

 

On Sept. 4th, Utah Tar Sands Resistance interrupted the 2014 Uintah Basin Energy Summit, a yearly conference where tar sands and oil shale speculators are exalted and anyone “not excited” about the destruction of the Book Cliffs is shut out and silenced.

Land defender Sidhe had planned to share her entire poem with the 700 conference goers, but police–already aware of the conference organizers’ insecurities and impatience–would not cede a moment to their dissenters. Sidhe was booked into the Uintah County Jail on suspicion of “disorderly conduct,” an exceedingly fitting charge police could level against the tar sands speculators destroying the planet who were in the room, but alas, the police work for the capitalists, not the people.

“Disorderly Conduct” by Sidhe

A message to all of you short-sighted killers
What kind of world will you leave behind for your children
When you’ve squeezed every last drop of life from the land
With your greed and your murder you’ve wrought with your plans

I’d like to remind you your money means nothing
When the water’s been blackened and the creatures are starving
You toy with a force you do not understand
Your chemicals won’t wash all that blood off your hands

First Nations fight cancer up in Athabasca
Your oil trains are time bombs impending disaster
Your pipelines will leak and your cesspools will sprawl
And your babies are left with the brunt of it all

What of the animals caught in the tar?
What of the forests left clear cut and scarred?
What of those atrocities I didn’t witness?
Like Serafino in Columbia sending assassins
To murder union organizers who stood up and spoke out
In the back of my mind I can still hear them shout
I am made of this land you are made of the same
The planet is dying and you are to blame

Are you proud of yourselves? Look at what you’ve become
Heartless machines, so frigid and numb
So reluctant to think that you may just be wrong
That you hear the dissent and you send in the guns.

WE’RE SUING COPS AND A TAR SANDS REFINERY!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Journalist sues Utah tar sands refinery for illegal “terrorism” police detention

SALT LAKE CITY—An award-winning independent journalist filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Tesoro and the Salt Lake City Police Department for illegally detaining him and accusing him of terrorism for taking photographs of a refinery.

Jesse Fruhwirth posted a video on the Internet (see below) of December 16, 2013, when an ice storm and power outage prompted a major pollution event at Tesoro’s tar sands refinery in the Rose Park neighborhood.

“I was in bed reading and through my window suddenly I could see that the night sky was ablaze as if all of Rose Park was on fire,” says Fruhwirth. “Only the refinery was on fire, but I knew that such huge flare offs were extra dangerous events for babies, old people and sick people and I thought it was important to film the fire that might severely sicken or kill some of my neighbors that night.”

Fruhwirth also filmed the interaction he had with a police officer who ordered him to stop filming. In the video, Salt Lake officer Yvette Zayas tells Fruhwirth that she detained him for taking pictures of “critical infrastructure,” that she would refer her report to a “Joint Terrorism Task Force” to protect “homeland security.”

Zayas is simultaneously a paid employee of Tesoro and SLCPD, but that night she was working directly on Tesoro’s payroll.

Zayas nevertheless was wearing her city-issued police uniform, carrying her city firearm, driving the city’s squad car, and accessing the public dispatch system. The Rent-a-Real-Cop program, Fruhwirth says, is blatant corporate welfare and has been gaining more critics as harmful corporations like Tesoro and controversial political organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council have hired real city police to work exclusively for them.

“Police are given virtually perfect immunity to arrest and sometimes even to kill people supposedly because cops work for the public interest to ‘keep the peace,’” Fruhwirth says. “So it’s incredibly dangerous and dishonest for the city to rent policing power to powerful corporations so that cops completely ignore the refinery’s deadly crimes and meanwhile shut down the law-abiding journalists trying to expose them.”

The civil rights lawsuit filed in federal district court Wednesday (attached) names as defendants police chief Chris Burbank, mayor Ralph Becker, Tesoro as well as Zayas.

Others have faced similar intimidation. Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment’s Dr. Brian Moench faced off with officer Zayas at Tesoro as well. “The exact same thing happened to me back in July [2013],” he says.

Fruhwirth aims for a ruling declaring such detentions illegal as well as exposure of the Rent-a-Real-Cop program. But he also hopes to bring attention to the story that enticed him to film the refinery in the first place.

“Tesoro’s use of tar sands as a feed stock brings some of the poisons killing multitudes of indigenous people in Alberta down to Rose Park, a neighborhood that’s home to many people of color and recent immigrants,” Fruhwirth says. “It’s a journalist’s obligation to document an especially poisonous night, at an especially poisonous facility that uses especially poisonous products like tar sands. It’s classic environmental racism and it’s killing my neighbors and Athabascans alike.”

Fruhwirth was twice a finalist for the Reporter of the Year by the Utah Society of Professional Journalists and has worked to expose police murders and police brutality.

He is represented by Stewart Gollan of the Utah Legal Clinic.

To read the complaint, click here.

Contact:
Jesse Fruhwirth
435-219-1476

Stewart Gollan
801-328-9531

Ditching the Big Greens: Uprooting The Liberal Climate Agenda

Uprooting The Liberal Climate Agenda

by SCOTT PARKIN

“You can’t hate the roots of a tree and not hate the tree.”

― Malcolm X

Somewhere between the Bay Area’s environmental non-profit bubble and multi-million climate march planning in New York City, 21 people in the Utah desert took action to shut down the first tar sands mine in the United States.

They’d been part of a larger encampment on the eastern plateau, where local organizers educated over 80 student climate activists about the Utah tar sands as well as trainings on organizing, direct action and anti-oppression. Utah tar sands fighters have spent the summer living in the area as a constant protest against Canadian-based company U.S. Oil Sands’ extraction efforts on the plateau. Every night, black bears raided the camp looking for food and every day local and state police agencies harassed the camp with veiled threats and innuendo derived through Facebook stalking. Despite the harassment and surveillance by the state, actions happen. This particular arrest action gained lots of national media attention and a number of larger environmental organizations put out statements of support of the activists. It also included a number of escalated felony charges on some of the activists.

Utah tar sands fighters living on the ground on the plateau, in Moab and in Salt Lake City live and breathe the campaign against the Utah Tar Sands. They strategize and organize it the same way that Appalachian mountain defenders organize the struggle against mountaintop removal coal mining. They live it the same way that the Tar Sands Blockade lived the campaign against the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline in east Texas and Oklahoma. In all of these campaigns, it’s been an alliance of unpaid radical organizers working with local landowners and community members fighting to save homes, forests, water supplies and more. Furthermore, these campaigns have defined risk and sacrifice.

In Appalachia, after numerous actions on strip mine sites, coal companies filed lawsuits against those participating in civil disobedience actions. West Virginia law enforcement imposed huge bails to further deter actions on mine sites. In Texas, TransCanada sued numerous individuals and three grassroots organizations for over $20 million after the same sort of action. The Canadian oil giant also compiled dossiers on noted organizers and briefed local and federal law enforcement agencies with possible crimes and charges for stopping work on its work sites. Texas law enforcement obliged TransCanada’s hard work with felony charges and violent brutalization of peaceful protestors.

In each of these campaigns, bold and effective organizing against oil, gas and coal companies has created moments to stop egregious practices and projects at the points of destruction only to be abandoned or ignored by the larger environmental establishment. In the wake of that abandonment, hundreds of Appalachian Mountains have been leveled while oil flows through the Keystone XL pipeline from Cushing, OK to the Gulf Coast, and ground is now broken on the first tar sands mine in the United States.

The liberal reform agenda of the environmental establishment continues to dominate the climate movement. Organizations sitting on millions of dollars in resources and thousands of staff are now engaged in a massive “Get Out The Vote” style operation to turn out tens of thousands to marches before the September 23rd United Nations’ Climate Summit in New York. Their hope is to impact the summit framed as U.N. Secretary General Bai-Ki Moon’s dialogue with global politicians on climate change in the lead up to the 2015 climate talks. Civil society’s demands include passing meaningful climate legislation and signing binding agreements on carbon regulation.

History continues to repeat itself as the environmental establishment had similar demands in Copenhagen at the 2009 climate talks. After spending millions of their donors’ dollars and thousands of hours of staff time, successes included an email campaign that got President Obama to travel to Denmark and personally witness the failure of those climate talks. Almost simultaneously, legislation to regulate carbon emissions failed in the U.S. Congress as well. After outspending the climate liberals 10 to 1, the political will of Big Oil and Big Coal remained unbreakable. Meanwhile, these same companies continue to drill, mine, frack, pollute, poison, build pipelines and burn coal in neighborhoods and communities from coast to coast.

However, there is recent precedent for movements to effectively confront power-holders that moves beyond traditional liberal solutions of compromise and polite advocacy with grassroots organizing, direct action and meaningful solidarity with communities seeking clean and just solutions to pollution and exploitation.

In 1999, the North American anti-corporate globalization movement partnered with peoples’ movements in the Global South to literally end business as usual at the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Seattle. A grassroots spirit dedicated in solidarity with anti-austerity, human rights and environmental movements around the world spread like wildfire. Rooted in direct action, direct democracy and anti-capitalism of movements both in the U.S. and abroad, the global justice movement had been built over decades to stop the privatization of labor, environmental and human rights protections across the globe. The Seattle shutdown happened in defiance of Democratic politicians, Big Labor and other large organizations dedicated to reaching agreements with Corporate America in the WTO talks.

In 2011, after decades of pickets and strikes, of budget cuts, layoffs and evictions, the movement for economic justice in the United States rose to a new level as Occupy Wall Street began to occupy parks and public spaces across the nation. This happened after decades of politicians creating policies that benefited the rich and powerful while harming poor and working people. These occupations against the power of the “1%” created such a dramatic tension that the Dept. of Homeland Security coordinated a massive crackdown that ended many Occupy camps.

Throughout the Global South, they fight back against the polluters and the profiteers as well. In states across India, residents living near coal plants regularly engage in direct action and street fighting against authorities defending the right of corporations to poison their communities. In China’s Hainan and Guandong provinces, tens of thousands have taken to the streets in resistance to coal polluting their air and water. In 2011, Bolivia passed the rights of mother earth into law in defiance of companies in western democracies profiting from destroying the planet for financial gains.

While the liberal climate agenda is rooted in compromise with policy-makers and playing nice with corporations, a radical climate agenda must take the small disparate pieces of the existing climate movement and grow them exponentially to become a fierce counterbalance to the fossil fuel industry. It must include strategies that create an environment so toxic for the climate pollution industry, its executives, its politicians and the financial institutions that back them that business as usual becomes impossible. Furthermore, this agenda must be rooted in principles of justice and ecological sanity as well. Lastly, it must be willing to take risks, do jail time and say what doesn’t want to be heard by friends and enemies alike.

People are hungry to do more than send emails to President Obama asking him, once again, to do the right thing or march in a permitted march. Real change won’t come from professional activists rooted in the existing political and economic system; it’ll come from a mobilization of people willing to engage in risk and sacrifice.

Scott Parkin is a climate organizer working with Rising Tide North America. You can follow him on Twitter at @sparki1969

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Sept. 19-21: Fall Campout in the Book Cliffs: A Weekend of Stories & Connecting with the Land

Fall Campout

On the weekend of September 19 to 21, Utah Tar Sands Resistance and friends will be hosting a fall camp out in the Book Cliffs! It will be a time for folks from the Uintah Basin, Moab, Grand Junction, and other surrounding areas to meet, visit the land, and share stories about regional struggles.

There will be fireside chats featuring stories about important regional movements such as the nuclear test site protests and past efforts to halt tar sands mining on the Colorado Plateau. We’ll also have bird watching, animal tracking, and plant identification walks as we get to know the land better, and we’ll talk about the indigenous history of the Tavaputs Plateau.

We’re holding this gathering because we realize we have much to learn from other regional movements. We also realize that sharing stories with one another empowers all of us to take bolder action for a just and liveable future. Please join us in strengthening the regional network of people committed to keeping this little planet of ours alive through the deep work of conversation—sharing our experiences, fears, and, yes, joys, as we talk about what resistance means to us and what gives us hope for the region we love so much.

We will announce the specific camp site closer to the date, but it will be in the PR Springs area. Those of us living on the plateau this summer have discovered a variety of beautiful sites to camp that we are excited to share with you all. We’ll post signs prior to the event to make sure everyone can easily find it.

Breakfasts and dinners will be provided; bring your own lunches and snacks.

Please email tarsandsresist@riseup.net with any questions!

Sept. 12-15: Join Trans & Women Organizers on the Plateau

TWOP long photo

*UPDATED POST FROM TRANS & CIS EVENT ORGANIZERS*

Trans and/or Women Organizers on the Plateau gathering is happening this weekend (September 12-15, 2014) in The Book Cliffs of Eastern “Utah,” occupied Ute territory.

RSVP by emailing tarsandsresist@riseup.net (for carpooling, directions to campsite, food, ect.)

The transgender and women folk of this resistance and this region would like to hold a separate camp in solidarity with *Utah Tar Sands Resistance, and host events and action camps which are welcoming and available to those living within constant experience & oppression of patriarchy. We are very inspired by the work of the TWAC collective over recent years, from whom we’ve learned so much. Some of us have been to TWAC in the past, while others haven’t so we are still learning, working on language and organizing. We appreciate any folks with more experience doing TWACs to come and/or offer any input, advice, critique, ect.

We are a grassroots collective, and need organizers, guidance, and to come together in safer space to put the cards we do have on the table.

We are holding a decentralized gathering of Trans and/or Women folk in the region to share skills, build community with each other, and see what forms of action we can take together to STOP the strip-mining of tar sands and the congruent decimation of Forests, Waterways, and the Air we breathe.

This weekend, bring all your skills and thoughts! We cannot stress enough the importance of sharing skills of survival and resistance at every opportunity. This is a space for that. We would like to see workshops in tree climbing, blockades, resistance psychology, communication, healing, herbcraft, woodcraft, conflict transformation, first aid, self-defense (physical, social, and psychological), security, and organization. Bring what you know! We’ll be making a schedule ad-hoc, on the ground.

One main point of discussion will be holding a southwest regional TWAC in Spring 2015.

Possible topics for discussion include:
-Language (the spelling of Womyn vs Women and consequent implications).
Anticolonial Resistance, Cultural Reclamation, Indigenous Solidarity
-Transphobia/mysoginy/support (sisters, not just cis-ters)
-Consent

We are embracing the Trans Inclusivity Statement used by TWAC organizers this year:

“TWAC is an action camp that intends to be a welcoming and safer space for all folks who identify as women, transsexual, transgender, gender-variant, and genderqueer. Cisgender (non-trans) men are not invited to attend camp. As organizers, we recognize that transphobia, cissexism, and transmisogyny pervade both mainstream society and radical movements for social and environmental justice. We are united in our commitment to confronting transphobia and cissexism and are determined to foster a respectful and comfortable space for all people attending TWAC. Anyone displaying transphobic and/or transmisogynist behaviors, speech, or attitudes will be asked to significantly change or address their actions, and may be asked to leave if necessary.”

*This year, Utah Tar Sands Resistance along with other organizations and individuals have been holding a permanent protest vigil near the first tar sands strip-mine in this country against US Oil Sands, a corporation from Canada. This is a permanent vigil, open to all who are down with the cause. Email tarsandsresist@riseup.net for more information.

Frogs in Action Against Tar Sands!

frog meme copy

Inspired by friends taking a halt to tar sands mining in Utah for years, we frogs sprung into action this morning. At 8AM, just before the work crew arrived, we hopped out of the woods and helped a comrade u-lock their neck to the front gate of the area where machinery is stored.

Our friend had also covered themselves with tar sands to symbolize how millions of frogs and other animals downriver—humans included—would be impacted by tar sands mining. Today we take a stand for all the living beings down the Colorado River who would be poisoned by tar sands toxins and who’s water would be stolen by industry.

We come from various downriver habitats that would be severely impacted. Our journey here symbolized the mass migrations that so many species have been forced to endure. Braving the desert dryness and heat helped us to realize more deeply what it is like to be an endangered or threatened species with nowhere left to go.

Our action followed on the heels of a human-lead action that halted work for most of an afternoon last Wednesday. (insert hyperlink)

When workers approached the gate, they were clearly confused. Our comrade told them we would not allow work to happen today, to which  they replied, “But you’re a frog.” They debated among themselves about calling the cops, but ultimately decided against it. We imagined the 911 call: “Officer, we have a frog situation…”

Work began late that morning after they decided to extract our friends on their own, but we all felt it was a win. Tar sands resistance happens not just in big, high-profile action camps, but in repeated daily acts that challenge the powerful and take a stand for all living beings. Maybe next time it will be the chipmunks or the rabbits rising up, and when they do, we will be right there, on the front-lines, with them.

Ribbits and Solidarity,
The Frogs

Colorado Plateau Resistance shuts down tar sands mine construction


Utah Tar Sands Resistance received information regarding a direct action that took place at the US Oil Sands strip mine construction site. These folks are bad ass!

The group released the following video and below the video, a communique:

The Colorado Plateau and its inhabitants are under invasion on multiple fronts of the energy industry. This tar sands mine is a bloody blip in a bigger scheme threatening this land, including the reopening of uranium mines that have poisoned indigenous communities for generations; the planned construction of a nuclear generator in Green River, Utah; violent and vast scraping of the land and squandering of sacred water in pursuit of lowest-grade fuel sources like tar sands and oil shale; a new “oil” refinery in Green River perhaps to centralize production and distribution of those super-toxic tar sands and oil shale fuels; and all of this paid for and made possible by the dangerous fracking boom, which is poisoning our air and water and killing the most vulnerable members of our communities, our babies and old people. This second Big Buildup of the Colorado Plateau is similar to the first Big Buildup of the 20th Century, which fostered disastrous projects like the Glen Canyon Dam, the Navajo Generating station, and the Peabody coal mine at Black Mesa; this second Big Buildup of the Colorado plateau also resembles the initial conquering and genocide of this land by the American government and white settlers. In those prior historical times and today, masters of industry and thus colonialism must control the land and subjugate its people in order to consolidate the wealth of the land in the hands of very few white elites. Their most powerful weapons are and always have been racism and patriarchy and their value system is heartless capitalism. We are forever in contempt of their scheme. This energy industry is a murderous syndicate whose business plans for the future entail the destruction of life on the planet via climate-change catastrophes and crises. Now is the time for all who have something to contribute to give all that you can to the final shut-down of projects like the US Oil Sands tar sands mine and all the many tentacles sucking the life of the Colorado Plateau and Grand Mother Earth herself.

“The U.S. Oil Sands proposed project is located on land straddling the boundary of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.”

Land defenders shut down work for a full week at U.S. Oil Sands tar sands strip-mine in Utah last month, after learning that the project is actually located on land straddling the boundary of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. As such, the EPA has jurisdiction to require further permitting, and even shut the project down all together. Call the EPA at 1-800-227-8917 and tell them “no tar sands in Indian country!”

USEPA to USOS 06182014001 USEPA to USOS 06182014002

We’d like to highlight this part of the letter, as it does not bode well for the future of U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands strip-mine:

“Regarding your question concerning jurisdiction, the U.S. Oil Sands proposed project is located on land straddling the boundary of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. Portions of the proposed project in Township 15S, Range 23E, Sections 35 and 36 are on the north side of the boundary and are within the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, while the parts in Township 15S, Range 24E, Sections 31 and 32 would be outside of the reservation. Land located within Uintah and Ouray Reservation is Indian country, as that term is defined at 18 U.S.C. 1151 and as held in Ute Indian Tribe v. Utah  114 F.3d 1513 (10th Cir. 1997), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1107 (1998). Please note that as defined by 18 U.S.C. 1151, Indian country includes all reservation lands, including lands owned by non-members of the relevant tribes. The EPA implements federal environmental programs in Indian country, unless it has explicitly approved a tribe or a state to do so. The EPA has not approved the Ute Indian Tribe or the state of Utah to implement any federal environmental regulatory program on Indian country within the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.”

On July 22nd, John Andrews, chief general counsel for SITLA (the state agency that leased the land to U.S. Oil Sands in the first place), even confirmed that part of the project is within the boundaries of the historic Uncompahgre Indian Reservation.

The Vigil Continues

hard hat

A mass action camp here at PR Springs just ended last week, culminating in an ongoing week-long work shut-down for US Oil Sands. The energy of the 70+ participants from around the region amplified the resolve of our permanent presence to halt tar sands mine construction and foster new relationships with allies we can call upon in the future. While some friends have gone back to their various homes, we as a group feel more committed to defending this place than ever — and we aren’t going anywhere.

We’re also enjoying getting to know a new corner of this vast and beautiful land, a high spot near the edge of the sweeping green canyons of the Book Cliffs. Forested canyons plunge down into larger canyons that meet up with bigger canyons still, forming the behemoths that lead down to the plains some thousands of feet below. Groves of scrub oak give us shelter from the wind, and blood-red sunsets over the high desert mark the end of our days, leading into new moon nights of pure darkness scattered with flashes of far-off lightning storms. To the north, we can see the long-abandoned tar sands mine where we’ve observed a black bear scavenging
for food in the tar seeps, and beyond it, the rubble of U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands test pit. Being here affirms for us that we are not just here to protect our beloved PR Springs canyon, where we so often stay, but the vast and diverse habitats that stretch through the entirety of this land.

Sitting above the sprawling web of canyons that seem to bear up the plateau on the spines of their strong backs reminds me that each one is slightly or sometimes dramatically different, filled with different species and relationships between them, different patterns in how plants, animals, and fungi move through the world and down the canyon slopes. Some are sandy desert gardens, where bright green oaks and wildflowers pop out of sandstone outcrops; others are thickets of Douglas fir, Ponderosa, & Piñon. Every day I feel blessed to be here, and I have no interest in
going back to town. The plateau needs us, and we will do our best to fulfill the commitment we have made to this land, which has already given us so much.

If you want to get to know this amazing land and take part in the vigil, email tarsandsresist@riseup.net

Video: Work stopped ALL WEEK at tar sands strip mine!

On Monday, July 21, a mass mobilization following a week-long action camp halted construction at U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands strip mine all day. But those of us maintaining a permanent presence in the area under threat noticed something else: work on the site they’ve been bulldozing hasn’t resumed since then.

U.S. Oil Sands has suffered a shock on two fronts this week: popular resistance, and the legal realm. The face that mass numbers of people from Utah and around the region are taking decisive action to halt the project certainly must alarm company reps and investors. Equally alarming is the EPA’s recent revelation that part of the area U.S. Oil Sands is currently bulldozing is actually Indian country, destroyed without any permission or even notification to the tribe.

Aside from the Ute Tribe’s own permitting, the EPA has its own permitting process that U.S. Oil Sands must attempt to navigate. And having already destroyed the land it had no legal right to, the company may now have quite a mess to clean up.

Meanwhile, Living Rivers and Western Resource Advocates, the groups that have been working through the courts to halt the mining, are moving forward with a case that’s stronger than ever. And those of us on the group are watching, documenting, getting ready for the next wave of action, and crying out as loudly as we an about the injustice of what is happening here.