Appalachian Fire Continues to Spread Against Pipelines

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In the last several weeks, people across the United States have been watching as an anti-pipeline battle has played out in the Appalachian hollers, forests, and mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.

Gaining much of the attention has been “Nutty,” who for over a month and a half has been camped out on a monopod as well as “Red” Terry and her daughter Minor, who have been tree sitting on their own property on Bend Mountain to stop the destruction of their home under the threat of eminent domain in order to build the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). On May 5th, Red and her daughter Minor both came down and ended a tree sit under threat of arrest from the State following a judge’s orders finding them, and Red’s husband, in contempt.

But while Red and Minor have now come down from the trees, they have now begun a series of demonstrations and speaking events, denouncing the Mountain Valley Pipeline while the other tree sits have continued. Not to be outdone, an encampment continues to resist the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Virginia, known as the Three Sisters Camp.

Signals of solidarity seem to be everywhere: banner drops, graffiti, signs in yards, are all coupled with a public outpouring of support with the anti-pipeline battle which has been growing since tree sit first kicked off over two months ago. What follows is a time line and collection of events since May 5th, pulled from social media, starting with the end of Red and Minor’s recent tree sit, up until today.

The growing support for the anti-pipeline insurgency has even created a political crisis, with the Governor attempting to avoid talking about the tree sits for as long as possible and now calling for the sitters’ removal. Other politicians and celebrities have taken to supporting the tree sit, both at demonstrations and on social media. While this added ‘support’ is largely an attempt to feed off of the organic strength and power of the movement and channel it back into politics, those on the ground should also remember that their power comes not through fair-weather politicians and celebrity tweets, but instead their collective power to refuse and but their bodies in front of the machines and shut things down.

In the words of Nutty:

Let’s prove that when the cops and pipeline security lounge and laugh at their camp under the monopod, comfortable in their knowledge that I can’t stay up here forever, they are grievously underestimating our strength and our determination to keep on fighting. Not in one place, not with one tactic, but with myriad possibilities for confrontation, disruption and attack.

Timeline

March 5th: Red and Minor come down from their tree-sit. On Facebook, Stand with Red wrote:

Red and Minor declare: “Done in the trees, not done with this fight”

On May 5, 2018, after living in their tree houses for over 30 days, Red and her daughter Minor chose of their own free will to close the chapter on this part of their fight, and begin a new one; a statewide press tour, beginning Tuesday May 8th, in a scheduled meeting with Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources, Matt Strickler.

“We are done in the trees, but we are not done with this fight,” said Minor Terry after sharing hugs with family, and laughter with neighbors of Bent Mountain.

The mother and daughter count this day as a victory for having endured over a month of freezing temperatures and severe weather to delay Mountain Valley Pipeline. They also count their time spent in the trees as victorious for raising public awareness of the devastation the MVP would bring to their homes, their community, and the state of Virginia.

Minor says that although she’s looking forward to a shower, good meals and time spent with family, they are not slowing down. Starting next week, she says they re taking their case to Richmond. “Now that my mother and I are on the ground, we’re taking this show on the road. Our battle is definitely not done. We’re absolutely going to use this moment to push forward and ask for the stream by stream analysis, ask for the re-hearing by FERC, and ask Governor Northam to stop hiding behind the paperwork that’s already been done. He needs to step up and do his job. We’re here for the long haul to make sure that happens.”

Of their decision to come down from the trees, the mother and daughter say they were threatened with what Minor calls “bully tactics” by the US Marshals who would have been intervening to extract them on the orders of a federal judge.

“They forced our hand by trying to bankrupt my family and torture us. After Judge Dillon sided with Mountain Valley Pipeline, we were told that US Marshals would take over after midnight tonight. They were going to employ, for lack of a better term, torture tactics on my mother and me. They were going to move our support 150 meters away so we would not be able to see, hear, or talk to any of our support. They were going to isolate us essentially and shine spotlights on us 24-7. They were going to cut our meals down to one a day, hold my father in contempt of court, and levy significant financial fines against us daily.”

Red Terry says, “I realized there wasn’t a whole lot more I could do up there. But there’s a lot more to be done down here on the ground still.” When asked if they thought they had accomplished what they set out to do, Red responded, “Someone told me I went viral. I have a hashtag now whatever that means.” Red says she’s had requests for Stand with Red shirts as far away as Vermont and that friends across the country have passed Stand with Red signs as far away as Las Vegas. “So I guess I made it out there. Now, if we can make it to the people who can do something about this, that would be tremendous. That would make me happy. I’d fix my hair for ‘em.”

Just as they had over the last 34 days, dozens of neighbors, family, and friends gathered at their tree stands in the rain to cheer on Red and Minor and greet them back on the ground. “It’s been wonderful, the friends and supporters that were here on the ground to greet us. It’s great to be a human.”

Red and Minor are grateful for the support, for the encouragement, and for the dedicated people who continue to educate, create, act and speak out against the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines. They hope to see new faces getting involved across the state and they believe #WEWILLWIN

River Healers wrote on Instagram:

Love and solidarity to Red, Minor, and the Terry family. This has been a long week and we are glad that they are both safe. In 34 days they showed the nation how much they love Bent Mountain, their land, and the waters of Bottom Creek. They exposed the injustices of corporate colonialism, the fracking industry, and the silent @governorralphnortham and his corrupt state police. But more importantly their actions demonstrated what it is to love and protect water and your community. Thank you to the Terry family and all who continue to stand and protect Bent Mountain from the Mountain Valley Pipeline! We are all stronger because of your stand! #StandWithRed#DefendWithMinor #NoMVP #NoPipelnes
.
The fight is long from being over. Red and Minor will be coming to Richmond! Join us in #RVA on Wednesday at the Dominion shareholders meeting at 9 am. Bring your big yellow signs!

Love and solidarity to Red, Minor, and the Terry family. This has been a long week and we are glad that they are both safe. In 34 days they showed the nation how much they love Bent Mountain, their land, and the waters of Bottom Creek. They exposed the injustices of corporate colonialism, the fracking industry, and the silent @governorralphnortham and his corrupt state police. But more importantly their actions demonstrated what it is to love and protect water and your community. Thank you to the Terry family and all who continue to stand and protect Bent Mountain from the Mountain Valley Pipeline! We are all stronger because of your stand! #StandWithRed #DefendWithMinor #NoMVP #NoPipelnes . The fight is long from being over. Red and Minor will be coming to Richmond! Join us in #RVA on Wednesday at the Dominion shareholders meeting at 9 am. Bring your big yellow signs!

A post shared by River Healers (@riverhealers) on

May 7th: Red and Minor show solidarity with church fighting displacement. They write on Stand with Red:

Red & Minor stand in solidarity with the people of Union Hill Baptist Church as they resist the pipeline and compressor station in Buckingham County which will decimate this black community!

Red & Minor stand in solidarity with the people of Union Hill Baptist Church as they resist the pipeline and compressor station in Buckingham County which will decimate this black community! We will win! #StandWithRed

Posted by Stand With Red on Monday, May 7, 2018

May 8th:  “Nutty” issues a new statement from the monopod:

I wanted to write in response to the concerns I know many have expressed as to my health as I finish off my sixth week of living on this monopod.

I have gallons of water stored. I still have a stock of energy bars and some packets of applesauce. This is, comparatively, an extremely mild form of deprivation, and one I’m fortunate my body seems to have adapted well to. Recently a doctor hiked up to check on me, and asked (via megaphone, over the noise of the generator the cops turned on) if I needed any medicine. I don’t; all the medicine I want right now is to hear that rebellion is spreading.

A couple of members of the Giles County Rescue Squad (local ambulance, not rope rescue) have been coming here on their own time to check on me, and have been allowed to come in the closure and talk (though they cannot send anything up either). One of them warned me of the symptoms of rhabdomyolysis and kidney failure, which I am not experiencing, and said I was at increased risk of DVT (blood clots), which I mitigate by exercising my legs. Some aspects of living up here are uncomfortable, but none of this is life threatening as long as the support lines running to the four anchors for this pole remain intact.

There are far too many who do face life threatening risks from pipelines in our region.

Countless people and families are being confronted with the future of having their homes become part of the blast zone of pipelines carrying highly explosive fracked gas. Communities like Union Hill along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route are being threatened with the toxic fumes of compressor stations.

Fight for their (and for your) health.

Tracts of contiguous forest habitat are being fragmented by pipelines, forested wetlands destroyed, waterways and aquifers threatened by inevitable pipeline leaks and spills.

Fight for their health.

We live in a toxic civilization that is killing us all (some faster than others) and decimating the health of our planet at a terrifying rate.

So we all have some major health concerns. Enough, certainly, to take the fire in our hearts, our rage against all that is happening to us, our families, our friends, our earth, and let it loose against those trying to destroy us.

Let’s prove that when the cops and pipeline security lounge and laugh at their camp under the monopod, comfortable in their knowledge that I can’t stay up here forever, they are grievously underestimating our strength and our determination to keep on fighting. Not in one place, not with one tactic, but with myriad possibilities for confrontation, disruption and attack.

Spread that fire!

-Nutty

May 9th: The family farm at Little Teel Crossing has been issued court orders for the previous days. Page on Facebook writes:

MVP is swarming all over Franklin County now. They’re quickly approaching the Little Teel Crossing. There is still no word from the courts. The only thing certain for now is our resolve to figure out a way forward.

May 9th: Red joins march on the Governor’s Mansion in Virginia.

May 9th: Protest in Richmond, VA against the Dominion shareholder’s meeting:

Pipeline protest in Richmond!

Posted by Stand With Red on Wednesday, May 9, 2018

May 10th: Little Teel tree-sit writes:

ALERT: MVP is cutting just up the ridge 600 ft from little teel crossing. They are approaching with heavy machinery and automatic blade cutters towards two creek crossings.

Already this morning a tree was felled into the creek bank. The judge has still made no ruling but they are approaching.

May 11th: Protests and banner drops take place during Governor Ralph Northam Virginia Tech commencement speech. From a statement on Facebook:

HOKIES STAND AGAINST PIPELINES! #noMVP #noACP

VA Governor Ralph Northam spoke today at Virginia Tech’s commencement in Blacksburg. Folks were ready for Northam and all the parents and visitors with banners, posters, and leaflets. Signs were posted all around campus and downtown to show just how dangerously close Blacksburg is to the MVP blast zone.”

May 11th: Little Teel writes:

Today, MVP security came to the little teel crossing to remove a tree sit that has remained there for months now.

When they got there, for the second day in a row, they were unable to continue work. In fact, today alone they tried and failed to advance past the Little Teel Crossing 3 times. MVP arrived early in the morning prepared to dismantle the sit, they were stopped their tracks as someone was already in position to defend the multitude of trees that the sit connected to. They retreated.

They cut everywhere else they could, cutting up the bank of Teels Creek and trenching slopes. Later on, MVP began edging up its monstrous tree felling machine towards the occupied sit, but had to halt at a company “stop clearing” line. They retreated.

Frustrated, and grasping at any means of intimidation they still had, the company decided to send a crew of workers with chain saws to cut the small trees and vines of little teel crossing, swarming around the sit. Soon afterwards, landowners arrived to advocate for the safety of the remaining sitter, and to remind MVP that a decision on the contempt of court case had not yet been released. When people intervened, MVP, in typical fashion, called the police.

But this time the police told MVP that with no court order or word from the judge they will not enforce against the sitter. MVP again retreated.

Three times they came for us and three times they failed. Each time a bit more desperate. Fuck em.

This is how they lose. When everywhere they go at every phase of construction they encounter the obstacles of a rebellion that has become contagious. A pipeline can be stopped. The spirit and resolve of a people who have made up their mind, cannot.

MVP destruction along Teel Creek

Posted by Carolyn Reilly on Thursday, May 10, 2018

May 12th – 13th: Mountain mama festival set to take place. 

Follow the struggle at Three Sisters Camp, Appalachians Against Pipelines, Stand with Red, and Little Teel Crossing.


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