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August 14

After the Monopod: Nutty & the Anti-Pipeline Fight in Appalachia

On March 28th, 2018, a monopod blockade was erected on a Mountain Valley Pipeline access road in the Jefferson National Forest in so-called Virginia, on occupied Cherokee and Monacan territory (to the best of our current understanding). The pipeline fighter atop the structure, nicknamed Nutty, remained there blocking the road and stalling pipeline construction for 57 days. The following was written by Nutty beginning while she was in the monopod, and finished weeks later. This writing does not provide an up-to-the-minute account of MVP developments — some pieces here are outdated — but is a call to action and a call for reflection.

by Nutty

I’m not counting the days I spent on a monopod on that Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) access road anymore. Now I’m left wondering what the blockade did, and what comes next.

MVP is driving up that road again. They cut the trees on the top of the mountain — the oaks that stayed standing for so long after pipeline fighters first took to the trees this winter. I’m walking across the ground again, rebuilding my own strength, and reconnecting with old friends. I’m wondering if in a few months I’ll be sitting around woodland campfires with people I love, telling stories about something that helped spark an upsurge in direct action against the Mountain Valley Pipeline, or if I’ll just be remembering a brief moment of opposition before another pipeline started carrying fracked gas. It’s too soon to tell.

So much has been changing on the mountain, along the MVP route, among the trees and animals and waterways growing into the heat of summer even as the pipelines continue to threaten them. We’ve seen three more blockades end and this campaign’s first few lockdowns. MVP and state forces have been escalating their efforts against us, trying to make us go away, and in doing so they’ve underlined how now more than ever is our time to escalate, expand, and confront the pipeline company on new fronts.

On June 4th, 2018, 3 protesters locked themselves to construction equipment at a pipeline work site in Monroe County, WV. Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

I blocked that access road for eight weeks because this infrastructure project needs to be fought, and only bold, strategic actions have a chance of stopping it now. I did it because the Mountain Valley Pipeline is a violent assault against the lands and waters along its 300+ mile proposed route, and against all the plants, animals, ecosystems, and people whose lives are bound up with the fate of those lands and waters. I took action because this pipeline is part of a global system of extraction, exploitation, and colonization that is rendering our world more and more unlivable. I did it because… well, if you’re reading this, you likely already have your own reasons to hate pipelines. My purpose here is not to enumerate them.

I know I’ve said it before, but my purpose here is to encourage, inspire, and urge y’all to take further action.

From the monopod, I heard many times that the flames of resistance to the Mountain Valley Pipeline had caught and were spreading. I hope above all that they will continue to spread and burn fiercely; we’ll need a true conflagration to have a chance of turning MVP’s plans to ash.

Below is some of what I want to say before “Nutty” likely disappears entirely from the public realm.

The last thing I’m looking for, however, is for anyone to feel compelled to read long articles instead of reaching out and getting involved as soon as possible. No need to go any further, this is the intake form: bit.ly/AAPIntakeForm. If you haven’t worked on this campaign before but know folks who have, please also reach out directly. If you have any questions, email appalachiansagainstpipelines[at]protonmail.com.

DESCENDING

My descent from the monopod on May 23rd was calm. Local EMS were extremely helpful, first examining me and then remaining present throughout my interactions with the police on the ground. I went to the hospital after having my ID checked and being body searched by the Forest Service cops. At one point, they started to handcuff me, then decided against it after one handcuff.

In a scenario that still seems bizarre, I was never arrested and was permitted to keep the personal belongings I had brought down from the monopod with me. I left in an ambulance with a friend from the support camp riding along. Virginia State Police fingerprinted me while I lay in a hospital bed, and the Forest Service issued misdemeanor citations including a charge of blocking the road.

In the hospital billing office, my presence quickly made the talk turn to pipelines. So many knew personally of people and places where the company is making its painful marks, like the neighbor’s farm where the fields can’t be planted as machines tear up the ground, or the local roads made vulnerable to mudslides as MVP erodes neighboring slopes.

Some spoke of how this reminded them of coal companies taking land and despoiling it with no regard to who and what they endanger; I thought of how deadly mine and fracking explosions expose the nature of the fossil fuel industry which is now driving these pipelines. Since those conversations, a fracked gas pipeline installed by TransCanada just last January exploded in West Virginia. People saw that fire from 20 miles away.

As we walked out of the hospital into the sunlight an hour or so later, across the parking lot and away from the weeks of confinement and surveillance I had endured, a question someone in the hospital billing office had asked stuck in my mind: how can they put the pipeline through when so many people are against it? “They shouldn’t be able to,” the woman had said. It’s true. That doesn’t mean it isn’t happening as you read these words.

A pipe yard outside of Beckley, WV. Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

It wasn’t too long of a drive from the hospital to the place I spent my first night on the ground, but it was long enough to pass multiple MVP worksites. Machines sat idle and unguarded, awaiting another morning of labor preparing the ground for the pipes and their deadly cargo.

A Mountain Valley Pipeline construction site. Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

REPRESSING

For so much of our lives, we are coerced into continually acquiescing to the unacceptable — into letting pipelines be built without opposition, letting the violence against the earth continue. We are taught that it is easier to survive without causing too much trouble. The troublesome are dangerous and will get sent to prisons or other institutions. We learn to live through capitalism without resisting it, to be comfortable with the everyday coercion of laws and hierarchies, to give up so much of what we want for a modicum of safety or comfort or just something slightly better than dying or watching family starve. We live with social norms that lead so many to refuse to take risks to defend land or communities, even when we know they are being attacked and destroyed. So many people consume the never-ending stories of crises, from climate change to police murders, without ever reaching beyond the point of voicing indignation, never considering what it looks like to realign life around fighting back.

Life spent obeying laws and capitalist edicts isn’t freedom, it’s a process of confinement. The supposed comforts it offers are built upon the misery and injustice of a system that breeds pipelines, mass incarceration, poverty, and ecocide.

When people try to break free from that confinement, we will always face consequences, and we’ve begun to learn that those consequences can be harsh. For example, on May 25th, two days after I descended from the monopod, Mountain Valley Pipeline contractors (with the support of US Marshals) risked severely injuring a tree sitter by cutting a part of a tree they were attached to. This pipeline fighter was protecting trees along the MVP route at Little Teel Crossing, a resistance site on farmland in Franklin County, VA.

MVP has tried, with varying success, to use the courts and police to debilitate every blockade erected in its path — from the fines imposed against Red and Minor in Bent Mountain, to the prohibition of food and water resupplies at the three blockade sites (including mine) in the Hellbender Autonomous Zone, to the civil and criminal penalties leveraged against those involved in actions at Little Teel, to the extraction and arrest of numerous blockaders in actions on and around so-called Peters Mountain.

County Sheriff officials wielding assault rifles follow Forest Service law enforcement up to the monopod support camp after 2 people were arrested attempting a resupply. Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

Each of these state efforts to quell resistance is a reminder that we need to prepare to withstand the stresses of this fight as best we can. We need to protect each other against the inevitable attacks from pipeliners and the state. This determination to suppress us is also a reminder of the reality that no single action site is enough to stop the company’s concentrated might forever.

The answer isn’t to give in to state repression. We need more actions, and we need to figure out how to make more tactics work. I still have the banner that hung with me from the monopod, which I managed to take down as I descended. “The Fire is Catching: No Pipelines.”

The monopod and banner on deployment day. Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

The fire against the pipelines has been smoldering and flaring up for years — now we have to make it grow.

Amid the heartbreak over the places we have already lost, let’s remember how resistance has been rising. Over three years ago, Mountain Valley Pipeline started sending out notices about their project, and found that people in so-called Virginia and West Virginia did not welcome it. The company had to sue over 400 legal “landowners,” invoking eminent domain to force the pipeline through. Residents struggled in the courts and spoke out all through the long process of public comments and regulatory review. They harassed political candidates and pressured environmental agencies. Students and impacted residents filled State Water Control Board meetings with reasoned and impassioned pleas against both the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the neighboring Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Across the region, people met with each other in homes and in the woods, during trainings and camps, developing the ideas and friendships that would make the formidable actions of these last few months possible.

PARALLELING

Though here I am focusing on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, it would be a grave oversight to ignore the other pipeline threatening this region, which has also garnered resistance from the start. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) crosses land paralleling much of the MVP route, but extends for over 300 more miles. It is being built by Dominion, a corporation with even more resources and power than EQT (the primary company backing the Mountain Valley Pipeline).

The Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipeline routes. Map from Appalachian Voices.

Beginning in January of 2018, pipeline fighters gathered at Three Sisters Resistance Camp in Buckingham County, near the site where Dominion intends to drill under the James River. Folks at the camp began by confronting contractors attempting to work at the site, and continued to maintain a presence in advance of the inevitable ACP assault on the river and land nearby.

That camp is also not far from Dominion’s proposed site for a massive compressor station, a contentious project which would severely impact the rural, mainly Black community of Union Hill. Dominion bought the land where they plan to build the fracked gas compressor station – which threatens the descendants of freed slaves – from the distant descendants of the white plantation owners.

The ACP has received multiple legal setbacks: FERC a denied a requested extension on their tree clearing deadline, and a federal appeals court halted some construction work due to their egregiously inadequate protections for endangered species. But we mustn’t doubt that the company is continuing construction, and that court stoppages are likely at best a delay which could allow space for more organizing and preparation as this pipeline continues its long, devastating building process.

CLIMBING

This winter, even as the encampment against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was beginning, Mountain Valley Pipeline probably thought they had won an unobstructed path to completion. State actors had listened to the interests of those that states are designed to serve: the rich and powerful. Judges were granting MVP possession of land over the wishes of those living and relying on it. FERC was rubber stamping notices to proceed, and MVP contractors began clearing trees.

Then, on February 26th, the day dawned to find two tree sits erected in the path of the pipeline.

The sits were positioned just off the top of what was then called Peters Mountain, and what some would soon call the Hellbender Autonomous Zone in honor of the resistance that took root there. A few hundred feet from the Appalachian Trail, the sits were intentionally placed to impede clearing on one of MVP’s two bore sites, where the company intends to drill through the mountain and under the AT. This drilling, in addition to posing severe risks to the water permeating the mountain’s karst geology, is one of the most technically difficult and expensive portions of the pipeline building process.

A stump and other cut trees in the foreground, outline of remaining forest and more distant mountains in the background. Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

On March 12th, day 14 of the sits, MVP cleared the easement to the point just below the sit further from the ridge.They still left all the trees tied to the tree sits standing, as well as those very near the anchor and traverse lines. The sits withstood wind and snowstorms and sub-freezing temperatures. MVP attempted to impose an injunction against those occupying and supporting the sits, but justified it with such weak legal arguments that Judge Irons in Monroe County, WV finally denied their motion.

The pipeline company did find willing allies in the US Forest Service, which began imposing “emergency” forest closures, first of the forest around the sits and of part of Pocahontas Road (which the monopod would later block). Closure orders now continue to encompass all of Pocahontas road, 125 feet on either side of the road, and 100 feet from the edge of the cleared pipeline easement.

As spring progressed and MVP and the USFS ineffectually taped notices to trees and assured everyone that construction was still on schedule, the tree sits were gaining visibility and support. The tree sitters invited people to hike up and visit. Though it’s a steep hike, many living in and around the mountains of Appalachia are well accustomed to the terrain. For months, local friends provided the sitters and the people supporting them with large quantities of food, supplies, and encouragement.

BLOCKADING

As the sits were preparing to mark one month of defending the top of the mountain, pipeline fighters were raising a pole in the center of Pocahontas Road, the now closed Forest Service road that serves as a Mountain Valley Pipeline access road. The monopod was erected to both block potential extraction of the sits and to prevent heavy machinery from being able to expand the five miles of road above the blockade, which the company plans to use to bring in equipment they need to force the pipeline over and through the mountain. I climbed up that monopod just before dawn.

That morning, supporters held a lively rally until large numbers of cops drove them away and arrested my friend for doing nothing more than trying to keep me safe by explaining the rigging supporting the pole. Some cops tried briefly to redirect the anchor running to the front gate, but never actually altered the rigging.

They told me I would be coming down that day, “the easy way or the hard way.” That was March 28th. Clearly, cops lie.

Law enforcement gathered around the base of the monopod. Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

The cops soon established a 24-hour presence at the base of the monopod, and by the end of the blockade had set up two pop-ups and a massive enclosed tent below it. They also ran a line of police tape marking the forest closure by the support camp, and shifted from shining spotlights and headlights from vehicles at me to running lights off a generator all night long.

Forest Service law enforcement officers rotated through from as far away as Florida and Georgia. They enforced the road and forest closures, forcing anyone without special permission (given only to police, MVP, and local EMS) to walk over a mile of uneven terrain where there wasn’t even a trail (until the supporters who made the hike created one). This kept many people who would have loved to see the blockade from being able to visit. The Forest Service coordinated closely with MVP security and made clear their role of enforcing the pipeline company’s wishes on the mountain.

On April 22nd, day 26 of the monopod, Mountain Valley Pipeline contractors cut down one of the original tree sits atop the ridge after the sitter there decided to leave (and was able to avoid identification and arrest).

That same day, three people attempted to resupply me with food and water. I watched the Forest Service drag one of them along the gravel road below me by his backpack before all three were arrested. I listened to the Forest Service cops repeat ad nauseum, as they continued to do for many days after, that they would give me that food and water if (and only if) I came down from the monopod.

As seen from the monopod, one supporter is handcuffed, face down on the ground, at the feet of two cops. Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

All this is evidence, in case anyone needed more, of how police enforce the power of extractive industry as well as that of white supremacy and colonialism.

Cops shouldn’t exist at all.

CATCHING

After the monopod blockade began, direct action spread to Bent Mountain, VA. On April 2nd, Red took to the trees to protect the sensitive ecosystem she loves. Her daughter Minor soon followed. Community members on Bent Mountain organized to support them and oppose tree clearing. Police arrested some of those on the ground who dared to confront the pipeline workers, and MVP lawyers tried to intimidate Red and her family. The mother and daughter remained in the trees for over a month until a court ruled that they would be forced to pay increasing fines to Mountain Valley Pipeline if they remained — $1,000 per day, each. Since their descent, they have both continued to campaign against the pipeline from the ground. For more details check out Stand With Red on Facebook.

On April 19th, Little Teel Crossing went public, revealing more tree sits occupied by pipeline fighters on a family farm in Franklin County, VA. The last tree sitter to remain, known as Ink, held strong in their tree despite legal intimidation, MVP’s use of heavy machinery in the immediate area, and ongoing private security presence. Ink’s sit delayed MVP’s advancement across the sensitive creek below the trees.

Ink eventually came down in the wake of MVP contractors’ life-threatening cutting practices and amid threats of arrest, extraction, and high fines. Sprout, who briefly occupied another sit on the same site, came down as well. Neither of those sitters were arrested.

In the days following the end of the sits, police arrested pipeline opponents simply for standing on the line marking the easement — yet another indication that police are showing less tolerance towards any interference with pipeline operations.

The few lines above do little justice to the last few months of pipeline resistance; one good source for more is the End of the Line podcast: https://soundcloud.com/pipelinepodcast

Even before the tree sits, skypod, and monopod in the Hellbender Autonomous Zone had come down, direct action had already branched out beyond aerial blockades. On April 28th in Monroe County in so-called West Virginia, a rally briefly stopped work at the Indian Creek crossing. On May 26th, a funeral-style vehicle convoy mourning the destruction of Mill Creek delayed pipeline construction at a site in Montgomery County, VA. Dozens rallied outside the EQT shareholders meeting in Pittsburgh on June 21st; on the same morning, local residents in Virginia disrupted another morning of pipeline work in Montgomery county.

Rally at Indian Creek construction site. Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

I know people are thinking about what more they can do in their own communities. I hope there’s more being planned — more actions and schemes against MVP that I have no idea about.

I can’t deny the heartbreak of the trees cut and the earth gouged up for pipeliners’ profits where once courageous blockaders made that work impossible.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline easement cut on Peters Mountain, where two tree sits once stood. Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

Early on the morning of May 31st, Mountain Valley Pipeline and the US Forest Service brought in a cherrypicker to extract fern, a blockader in a skypod on the same MVP access road that I had blocked in the monopod for so long. Later that day, climbers working with law enforcement sent lines into Deckard’s tree (the remaining tree sit on the ridge, then in its 95th day). Seeing this as an intended extraction, Deckard chose to climb down.

But on June 4th, in the wake of the recent end of the aerial blockades, three pipeline fighters locked to MVP machinery on Route 219 in Monroe County, halting construction for half a day. On June 28th, a lockdown on Brush Mountain in Montgomery county lasted a remarkable fourteen and a half hours before police cut through the angled lock box keeping the pipeline resistor attached to the arm of an excavator.

The June 28th Brush Mountain lockdown, which stopped work for an entire day. Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

I began trying to write this letter a long time ago, as a call to action when I still occupied the monopod, then as an update and callout once I descended. I wanted to write about how the mountain was still a bit safer because of what we had done there — how blockades still remained, even if fewer people were living in aerial structures than at the height of the aerial resistance when eight people at four sites were fighting off MVP.

That isn’t a story I can tell anymore.

The aerial blockades did help launch the initial direct action resistance to construction farther than many of us thought possible. It was amazing, and I am so glad to have been able to play a role in it.

Children playing in the presence of the monopod before USFS closed the road. Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

I am everlastingly grateful to all who put the energy into making the blockades possible and maintaining support for months. We showed one array of possibilities of how to effectively slow construction in creative ways. I am glad for both the immediate impact on MVP, and for the way that so many opposed to the pipeline got a chance to learn about and support the actions — from residents with easements running by their homes, to students from nearby universities, to young kids learning about the woods, to AT through hikers. It was worth it. I think it was the kind of thing we need to do. It was also clearly nowhere near enough.

CONFRONTING

It doesn’t help to underestimate the pipeline company, or to minimize the scope of this struggle. The pipeline corporations have the money — billions of dollars invested in making sure these projects get built and create profits. As we’ve already seen, they have the police to enforce their will, as well as private security forces to do whatever the cops won’t. They operate within an economy which maintains itself via the continual processes of violent extraction, of which pipelines are an integral part. They work under systems of governance that are predicated on colonization and extraction, and are thus designed to marginalize and subjugate anyone whose exploitation benefits those systems or whose existence threatens their smooth operation.

These pipelines are exposing more people to the forces of extraction in harsh ways, but truly none of this is new. The mountain I lived on while in the monopod was already robbed of nearly all of its trees back in the days when timber companies, run mainly by outside profiteers, destroyed so much of Appalachia’s rich forest ecosystems. Mountains in surrounding counties continue to be blown apart to extract coal.

A blast on a mountaintop removal site in Kanawha County, WV in 2016. Photo courtesy of Kanawha Forest Coalition.

Of course, I am also writing all of this from stolen land. The monopod and the tree sit on the mountain were attempting to protect one of many spaces where indigenous history is difficult to establish. Genocide and forced removal of Native people, followed by efforts to erase the Native identities of those who remained (notably spearheaded by the state government of so-called Virginia, heavily influenced by eugenist ideology), have made it difficult to ascertain the exact history of this land. Cherokee and Monacan people most likely lived on the mountain at different times.

The pipeline runs across hundreds of miles of land whose indigenous inhabitants were all violently dispossessed by the US state and the forces that would become it. The same settler-colonial state that enshrined slavery in its constitution and continues to uphold white supremacy today is greenlighting pipeline after pipeline. Those pipelines have harmful effects — from air pollution, to contaminated drinking water, to the global effects of greenhouse gases — that continue to impact most extremely those who are already under constant attack by the dominant legal and economic apparatuses.

This is not an attempt to equate this pipeline struggle with other injustices; I simply gesture at the world from which these pipelines arise.

I’ve realized that when one considers the deep entrenchment of energy extraction in the structures that claim to rule us, some aspects of the pipeline companies’ power make perfect sense. It’s all too easy for the companies to steal any land they want, and the police are willing to expend so much effort and so many resources to do their bidding.

We have to confront the history of colonialism that is all too alive, and recognize how it continues to order our lives and the lives of all those in the so-called United States. We must not ignore this history, especially if the structures of domination are positioned such that we have the privilege to be able to ignore it — that is to say, if we are white, or male, or cisgender, or settlers, or US citizens, or financially affluent, and so on.

To forget this history, and to fail to combat the white supremacy and colonialism that too often characterize “environmental” movements, is a grave affront to the people fighting many aspects of interlinked oppression. If we ignore struggles that we feel are not similar enough to our own, we also lose sight of the historical victories and lessons they offer. Just as the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines draw power from a world built on extraction and domination, we must draw from the deep histories of rebellions and revolts and help fan the myriad flames of resistance rising across the planet.

The defense of land and water, led by Native people against colonial, capitalist, and corporate theft and destruction, began in 1492 and never stopped. These lands hold not only the marks of exploitation but also the ancestral tracks of those who liberated themselves from slavery, who

struggled against the power of plantations, of industry, of the law, and who struck back. I have neither the space nor the knowledge to examine that history (Dixie be Damned is a great book to start with for some of it). I know I have so much to learn, to figure out, and to put into practice.

FIGHTING BACK

We’re here in this fight, deeply rooted in Appalachia and in the specific terrain that this pipeline crosses. Yet we’re also linked to battles against extraction worldwide, from the Coast Salish territories to the Atchafalaya Basin, from the mountains of Guatemala to Germany’s Hambach Forest.

The pipeline here should not be treated as isolated from the array of conflicts shaping the area today. I am so glad to be in this fight alongside friends who organized against mountaintop removal coal mining, friends who continue to work to confront fascists and white supremacists whenever they try to claim this region as their own. We know this land doesn’t belong to them, or to corporations, or to the government. There are so many of us who care too much about the land to let it be sold off as a commodity for a pipeline company to exploit. And maybe in the face of the enormity and power of our enemy this notion is a bit ridiculous, but there are moments when I think that by drawing on this fierce love for the land, by learning from and honoring the struggles we are tied to and a part of, by refusing to give in and compromise, we can be stronger than them.

It is so, so hard. There are many times I want to try and run from it all.

But I’ve learned that none of us can truly escape everything terrible that’s going on. I believe we can get closer to liberation through the process of exercising our power to fight back. There were times that I lay in that tiny space atop the monopod, staring up at my black plastic rainfly, when I realized that my face was plastered with an enormous smile. I was undeniably, incongruously happy. Amid the inescapable pain of all the harm brought on by this pipeline, I find joy in the fact that I can fight back — a joy I hope so many others will share.

I see us trying to create ruptures in a world built on violent extraction — from earth and from people — and trying to fight against a future built on further devastation. I hope we create space in those ruptures where we can build relationships with each other and live in spite of, and in defiance of, everything we need to fight.

After constantly urging people to action, perhaps I’m saying something that is already clear: strong bonds of affinity and friendship make this struggle possible.

We need to fight every manifestation of the oppression of the world when it tries to take a place among our relationships. The forces of oppression and violence will do their work even without the help of courts and jails if we let them. Sometimes (at least it seems so to me) figuring out how to work and act with each other can seem harder than facing down lines of riot cops. But it is just as important.

I think the struggle against this pipeline is worth fighting for — if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have stayed on that monopod. And I think if it is worth fighting for, it is worth fighting for as strategically, as skillfully, and as fiercely as possible. It will take many more people in many more places. It will take months, likely years of tactical assaults against a myriad of targets and against this pipeline company’s capacity to carry out its planned devastation. It will take growing relationships as well as technical abilities. It will take the strength, caring, and dedication necessary to support each other through the inevitable stresses and heartbreaks that come from pitting ourselves against such a powerful enemy.

And again — because I can’t say it enough — it will take many more people.

So please join us.

Deepen and extend your involvement in this struggle so that we can establish defensible spaces in more locations. Take the next steps to build up resistance so that the people trying to force

these pipelines through will confront more affinity groups, more actions, more flare-ups of resistance than they can ignore or suppress.

Hundreds of people hiked up to show support to the tree sits and the monopod or rallied at the end of the road closure. I know I only met a fraction of them, but I’m grateful to everyone who cared enough to make the trek, to bring supplies to help keep those blockades going, to show with words and gestures how the actions on the mountain were far from isolated.

I hope that everyone who came, and the many who wanted to hike up but were unable to because of the Forest Service closures, becomes another person confronting MVP workers and police. I hope they become another person taking to the trees, investigating locations and learning direct action tactics, holding down jail support and communications, working on action media, opening up shelter and providing food to fellow land defenders, committing anti-pipeline mischief in the night.

Now is not the time to wait for some ideal set of circumstances before taking action. We learn what we can, make circumstances we can work with, and act with what we’ve got.

I have more trust in tactics that manage to defy expectations, that arise from the situations, enthusiasms and experiences of those who carry them out, than in anything I could suggest here. There is both room and necessity for invention. The cops tend to rapidly learn to beat things that people like us have already done many times.

That said, here are some starting points. Some methods earth defenders have used in anti-pipeline and other eco-defense campaigns include: locking to machinery, roving work

stoppages, roadblocks and barricades, occupying structures in the path of construction, encampments, banner drops, boat and kayak blockades of ships and water infrastructure, and of course tree sits and other forms of aerial blockades. If you want to read about a wide array of tactics and how to pull them off, the Earth First! Direct Action Manual is a great resource.

Water protectors in Louisiana shut down Bayou Bridge Pipeline construction via water blockades in August 2018. Photo courtesy of L’eau Est La Vie Camp: www.facebook.com/LeauEstLaVie

Please don’t let lack of certain resources, unfamiliarity with skills, or limited experience keep you from confronting this pipeline. I didn’t start getting involved in direct action already knowing how to climb; I used to read about aerial actions and wonder how the hell anyone pulled them off. Friends with lots of experience and patience taught me how. Please reach out if you want to get involved in actions (or if you already made a plan with a crew you trust) and would like some training or support.

Searching across distance and time to rebellions that inspire us can also lead to effective ways to act. Our resistance wouldn’t be as strong as it is if it weren’t for Standing Rock, or the fight against mountaintop removal, or the Tar Sands Blockade, or Camp White Pine, or the countless campaigns and actions where skills have been honed and lessons have been learned in the fight against extractive infrastructure.

I hope that no matter what happens here, it makes the next struggles stronger.

SCHEMING

Thank you to all who have been uplifting our stories.

Word of the blockades on the mountain, and of the many acts against MVP, has spread farther and faster than I ever envisioned. I hope that it continues to — not because social media shares and mainstream press coverage can somehow halt pipeline operation, but because if more people learn about this pipeline fight, maybe they will find ways to participate.

Spread these flyers around.

Flyer courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

Drop (more) banners. Keep talking to people, and talk to them about the shift from following the news to making it.

Photos collaged by Appalachians Against Pipelines, courtesy of anonymous banner droppers.

Remember also that in order to disrupt pipeline construction effectively, we need information. For those of you living or traveling near the route, take note of where and how MVP is operating — something I know many of you already do. Where are they trying to prepare for pipe laying or water crossing? With what machinery, using which contractors? What equipment yards are they using? Where are they setting up man camps? Where are equipment and building materials coming from and being stored? Compare reports with neighbors and friends who care about stopping this, and you can also give us updates via the email [email protected] Photos and detailed descriptions of locations are important.

Another reminder: the heads and boards of directors of corporations like EQT (chief investor and operator of the MVP) and Dominion (behind ACP, as well as other horrible projects such as the liquefied natural gas export terminal at Cove Point) have names and addresses. So do their major investors.

Pipelines get built (no) thanks to funding from massive banks, and bank actions can happen anywhere. Some major targets include Wells Fargo and Bank of America. A friend did some research and found that 8 of the major destructive pipeline projects in so-called North America share 7 financiers: Bank of America, Bank of Tokyo, Credit Suisse, Wells Fargo, Citi Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, and JP Morgan Chase. Top funders of MVP specifically are Bank of America, PNC Bank, Wells Fargo, Suntrust, BNP Paribas, and US Bank. Actions around these targets can range from publicly moving money, to sneaking into shareholder meetings (some North Carolina residents did this a couple months ago), to attacking and disrupting bank branches and offices.

Image courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

REACHING

While in the monopod, I heard many people tell me how they could never do what I was doing.

One of my first thoughts was often of how if someone had asked me before I went up in the blockade if I could stay for weeks, I wouldn’t have thought that I could do it either. If you want this pipeline project dead, and want the fight against it to be as powerful as we can make it, I think you could also find manifestations of strength you didn’t know you had.

From the monopod platform looking up at the top of the pole. Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

I’m not trying to tell anyone to live in a monopod for eight weeks (though of course if that’s your plan, I’d be happy to share insights). There are countless ways to mess with pipeline construction, to get in the way of the smooth progression of this project, to have impacts beyond the symbolic — impacts that, as they accumulate and open more possibilities, threaten the existence of projects like this pipeline. I like to think that they threaten more than that: these pipelines feed the whole horrific constellation of forces ruling human civilization and suppressing wildness and freedom and love, and to threaten them effectively is to strike against those forces.

Throughout those weeks in the monopod, I intentionally avoided directing demands or appeals to those who claimed to have power over me and my friends — like cops and governments and MVP itself. What I’m trying to reach for through direct action isn’t a state that listens to me, and isn’t “effective” environmental regulatory agencies. It’s a world without pipelines or states or police. No, I don’t have any idea how the hell to get there, but I know I’m looking for a victory based on taking the power to decide it all — our present and our future and whether or not this pipeline will be in it — for ourselves.

So this is my final appeal to you. Take action, I don’t know what it’ll look like, but do something, and then another thing, and then try something else.

Reach for what we could create together, reach for things wilder and more brilliant than what we currently think ourselves capable of.

Love and Rage,
Nutty

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