Join us on Saturday, November 8th, starting at 4pm, for FIRE ON THE PLATEAU: a day of free music and resistance, at the Fort Duchesne Multipurpose Gym (Ft. Duchesne Cirle) on the Uintah and Ouray Ute Reservation.
According to MCW’s press release: “The occasion will be marked with a ribbon-c…utting ceremony and a demonstration of MCW’s extraction plant on MCW’s lease site at Asphalt Ridge, near Vernal, Utah. Many local dignitaries, Utah State officials and the corporate MCW team are scheduled to be in attendance at this benchmark resource development event.”
“We will continue to stand against all tar sands mining in the region,” one chipmunk stated.
A message to MCW and their potential investors: you are investing in death, and we will not allow your project to move forward.
Sept. 30, 2014 | For Immediate Release
PR SPRINGS, Utah–Protesters again stopped work at the construction site of the first tar sands mine in the US. Five people were later arrested and jailed but the campaign to stop the mine said the resistance will not relent until all tar sands plans are canceled.
By moving quickly through the site to obstruct numerous construction vehicles, just a handful of speedy protesters were able to shut down the enormous construction project on a sprawling 213 acres in Utah’s Book Cliffs.
The action took place Sept. 23.
“Direct, physical intervention is necessary to halt the completion of this toxic project,” said one protester. “If just five percent of those people at the People’s Climate March in New York City came to Utah, we could shut down tar sands construction for good–and probably get away with it.”
A playful video of the action released by Utah Tar Sands Resistance shows protesters donning chipmunk masks, running, dancing and posing for pictures among the many halted machines.
Despite the humor, protesters say Utah tar sands development threatens the safety of drinking water for 40 million people and would cause irreparable damage to the land, including clear-cutting of old-growth juniper, fir and pine forest.
US Oil Sands began major construction of their strip mine in 2014 and hopes for commercial sales beginning sometime in 2015. Hundreds of people have participated in actions disrupting construction work this year, vowing to prevent functioning of the mine. Including the new five defendants, 27 people from Utah and throughout the Americas are facing criminal charges in connection with protest actions.
Construction of the mine is scheduled to end this month due to oncoming winter conditions. Protesters have vowed to return in the spring.
Utah Tar Sands Resistance received the following communique from the “chipmunks”:
The tar sands industry is not threatened by symbolic media actions. Direct physical intervention is necessary to halt the completion of this toxic project. What we did was necessary, but it was not enough. We need more people to intervene to roll back US Oil Sands’ assault on land, water, plants, animals and indigenous sovereignty. We encourage everyone to act to halt construction and note that it is no one’s duty to hand themselves over to the state each time they disrupt dangerous projects. We knew we were risking arrest of ourselves or nearby friends who weren’t even involved in this action, and we do not regret our actions. But please, anyone who is able: disrupt the tar sands industry, halt construction and operations and get away with it! Hundreds of thousands of people Sept. 21 marched in New York City just to have a parade for the media. If just 5 percent of those people came to Utah and engaged in direct action, we could shut down tar sands construction for good–and probably get away with it. Our friends who were arrested were subjected to abuse and trasmisogyny from police and jailers that left all of us in a state of terror regarding the welfare of our trans woman friend who was kept in solitary confinement–where the jailers had ample access to abuse her without witnesses, a regular occurrence for incarcerated trans people. No justice seeker should feel compelled to subject themselves or their friends to this kind of state-sponsored abuse that comes with arrest and jail just to live up to some class-privileged individuals’ problematic views on what types of protest deserve respect. Lastly, the video of the chipmunk work stoppage on US Oil Sands’ strip mine project–occurring on stolen Ute land–demonstrates this company’s blatant disregard for the life and safety of people on the work site. US Oil Sands CEO Cameron Todd made claims in the media that workers stop work immediately if anyone is present on the worksite–a requirement of federal safety regulations. But the video shows what we’ve seen again and again: rampant deviation from this guidance and thus rampant violations of safety regulations. KBR-contracted Stubbs and Stubbs’ reaction to our presence echoes their disregard for the amazing ecosystems of the Book Cliffs and beyond, and the lives that they are systematically poisoning and destroying.
Marches around the country this week show ideological diversity among a new cohort of activists.
by Cally Carswell
(This article has been re-posted from High Country News)
Last Sunday, under a pocket of blue sky, some 30 people spilled out of vehicles onto Seep Ridge Road, a wide thoroughfare that traverses a remote spine of eastern Utah’s Book Cliffs, and is in the process of being paved. Many in the group wore hats or wrapped their heads with scarves, then tied bandanas over their noses and mouths. They looked tough, hard-edged, but not without a sense of humor. One woman carried a shepherd’s cane, one man wore a clown mask, and another played tunes like “This Land is Our Land” on a saxophone. The wind whipped them energetically.
The guises were defenses not against the weather, but against the cops and a security camera trained on a test pit for what could soon become the first commercial tar sands mine in the U.S. Tar sands contain an unconventional crude called bitumen, that with a great deal of water and energy can be extracted from sand and rock, and refined into fuel. The industry is big business in Alberta, Canada, and one of the most carbon-intense fossil fuels. U.S. environmentalists have fiercely opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian tar sands crude to U.S. refineries, in a bid to influence further development to the north. Less known, and less opposed nationally, is the push to develop Utah’s own tar sands deposits.
The protesters were here to say “no” to the development, because as one explained earlier in the day, “These days, if you’re not saying ‘no,’ you’re saying ‘yes’.” It felt good to say “no,” another told me, and to do so publicly.
After all, the politer approaches to solving the climate crisis, the attempts by big environmental groups to work inside the halls of Congress, to compromise, and to wield science to compel action, had failed. It was time, the protesters believed, to confront the problem at its source – carbon spewing projects like this one – and to do so loudly. A few among them unfurled a banner declaring “Together and Everywhere We Rise Up for Climate Justice.” The group began to march toward the test pit. Read more
BREAKING: Five Land defenders were arrested yesterday morning at the construction site of US Oil Sands’ tar sands strip-mine in Utah. The Canadian company’s 32,000 acre lease-holding are on state-managed land in the Book Cliffs, on the East Tavaputs Plateau, though the land is traditional Ute land, and lays within Indian country, with sections of the tar sands project straddling the boundary of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation.
Currently, the land defenders (including the media team) are being held on Class A Trespassing charges, with a total bail estimated at $10,500.
One of those arrested is a trans woman, and at this time we are unsure if she is being held in solitary, or if she is being housed with the male population. Neither situation is acceptable, we are extremely concerned about the dangers she may be facing.
We will provide updates and media here as they become available.
Donate to the land defenders’ legal support fund using this secure link or with the form below:
From Utah to NY: Together & Everywhere We Rise Up For Climate Justice!
Over the weekend of Sept. 19th, folks from all over Utah, Colorado, and even as far away as Brooklyn & England, gathered at our permanent protest camp to share stories of Resistance, and tour the the East Tavaputs Plateau: specifically US Oil Sands’ tar sands strip-mine.
Together with our friends from Canyon Country Rising Tide, we marched down Seep Ridge Road, along the football-sized area being clear-cut for US Oil Sands’ construction site, and into the 10-acre test pit that gives us a glimpse of the future if 32,000 acres are strip-mined in the Book Cliffs.
We stand & resist in solidarity with communities everywhere rising up to protect lands, water & our very future.
“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.
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 ,” 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.
Uprooting The Liberal Climate Agenda
“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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions!