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Nov 19, 20

Court Issues Injunction Against Tree-Sitters Fighting Mountain Valley Pipeline as Community Rallies in Solidarity

While the world has been focused on the historic rebellion that erupted following the police murder of George Floyd and the 2020 election spectacle, the ongoing tree-sits in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Appalachia have continued to be in active resistance for over 800 days. This week however, tree-sitters with Appalachians Against Pipelines were hit with an injunction by the courts to come down from the trees or face arrest – yet the tree-sit still remains and supporters continue to rally in solidarity.

The sits have been protecting some of the last remaining trees in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, while community members have been maintaining an encampment below the trees in order to provide tree-sitters with food and other supplies. On Monday, when news of the injunction broke, supporters left their encampment and built barricades around the trees.

According to one report:

A judge has imposed a daily fine for the tree sitters blocking the Mountain Valley Pipeline and is holding them in contempt of court. According to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, each tree sitter will be fined $500 for each day they stay. This comes after a judge issued a temporary injunction, ordering the three protesters to leave by Monday. Authorities say some of the protesters on the ground left, but others chose to stay in the trees. Authorities say they have the authority to remove the protesters.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline’s new completion date is now “the second half of 2021” and the estimated cost of the project has risen to $5.8-6 billion. This is nearly 3 years past the original projected in-service date of the MVP which is now more than $2 billion over budget as calls continue to mount for the project to be abandoned.

Check out the following timeline of direct ecological resistance and solidarity and stay-up with the campaign by following Appalachians Against Pipelines.

  • November 18th: Rallies in solidarity with the Yellow Finch tree-sit today held in both Blacksburg and Richmond.

  • November 17th: Mountain Valley Pipeline work crews show up at the tree sit. A tree-sitter made the following statement:

“MVP came and spent the morning dismantling our fence using machetes and a chainsaw. As with all MVP affairs, it’s typically unwieldy and involves a lot of sliding down a hill on your butt. However, seeing a pipeline guy holding a mattress that says, ‘COME AT US BRO’ in paint really made my day.

Sheriff cars didn’t seem to be around. It was a little scary all of the people filming and watching me. Fortunately, I held the energy from the rallies close to my heart. The mass of cars honking and hollering up to me the day before let me know people are watching and caring.

Thanks for all the love and support. Seeing high schoolers rally for us let me know that there’s another generation of resistance brewing. Hopefully someday I’ll see some of y’all on the frontlines of a pipeline resistance. Or better yet, no more pipelines.

Stay strong,
Acre”

  • November 16th: More solidarity rallies are held in the face of a threatened extraction by the courts. Supporters gathered near the sits to show solidarity. Meanwhile, up the road, the blockade still stands and tree sitters are bracing for whatever the day may bring. A statement from one of the tree-sitters reads:

“Alright, day 804. Or day 1.

I say both because even though this place has been here a long time, with ground camp removed, it feels like a brand new action. It’s just us up here now.

I felt a lot of conflict and pain seeing camp get hauled away. We know that blockades aren’t known for being places of security and foundation. But a lot of people called Yellow Finch home. My hope is that all the connections made here carry on into future resistance- of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and beyond.

Cops came, took a good look at us, scratched their heads and left. Rinse and repeat a couple of times. Maybe they thought an injunction was enough to scare us away. If so, they were wrong.

It’s hard remembering to make food for myself when people used to bring me such delicious meals. Cliff bars, Slim jims, Copenhagen. If I leave tupperware out the squirrels try to nibble on it. A flying squirrel flew into my sit sometime last week. It turns out they look a little more like bats than rats.

With the changing season, the tree canopy looks a little different everyday. Lichen clinging to the trees reminds me of mint green gum stuck underneath school chairs and desks. I’ve learned lichen is actually a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae.

Somewhere my partner is waiting to hear how today went. Fingers crossed. While I miss my partner, I sincerely hope that I’m up here a while- that our act of resistance continues to baffle the police and MVP. It’s taken them over 800 days so far…

Someone ought to have to pay for all this destruction.

Love and Rage,
Acre”

  • November 15th: High school organizers with Appalachian Youth Climate Coalition held a rally in solidarity with the Yellow Finch tree sits today in Blacksburg. This rally was part of a week of sustained action to support the Yellow Finch Blockade as it faces an injunction.

  • November 12th: The Yellow Finch Tree-sit celebrates 800 days of active resistance to the Mountain Valley Pipeline. A rally was also held outside of the Montgomery County Courthouse in support of the blockade. Court also issues injunction against tree-sitters. A statement is released reading:

Thursday, the Yellow Finch tree sits celebrated their 800th day in the canopy blocking the Mountain Valley Pipeline. That same morning, Montgomery County courts granted MVP an injunction against the tree sits. This is an attempt to force people to leave the blockade.

For as long as we have been fighting this pipeline, MVP, the police and the courts have tried to scare off resistance. They’ve issued bullshit felonies and assault charges, held people in jail with no bail, endangered water protectors who have put their bodies on the line, and intimidated folks who live on the pipeline route. We have never been deterred.

An injunction is another tactic in their toolbox of repression- a lawsuit that places those who resist (and even those who support resistance) under the threat of fines. MVP and the state hope to use this capitalist threat to drive us away, not just from Yellow Finch, but from the entire pipeline path. They think they can put a monetary value on these trees- the last trees on the 300-mile long easement.

For three years this pipeline has ripped through Appalachian mountains and communities, tearing apart hills, hollers and ecosystems. Through this injunction, MVP claims the Yellow Finch tree sits have caused irreparable harm to their hazardous, colonial project. By signing off on the injunction the courts have agreed. Time and time again, we’ve seen them come down on the side of the fossil fuel industry and big corporations.

Who will hold MVP accountable for irreparable harm they have caused? Who will defend rivers and forests when judges rule that fossil fuels and profits matter more than habitats? Who will speak up for the Log Perch and the Indiana Bat? Who, if not us?

The corporate state will always try to tear down movements against extraction, colonialism, capitalism, racism and other systems of oppression. This injunction is just one strand in a vast web of state repression. We fight repression with solidarity. We continue to stand with indigenous Land Back struggles, and for a world with no prisons, no police, no borders, and no pipelines anywhere!

There is a lot of uncertainty in the wake of this injunction, but there are some things we know for sure. If it wasn’t for the Yellow Finch tree sits, this last patch of forest in the pipeline’s path could have been cleared 802 days ago. Direct action has been protecting these trees for over two years now.

We also know this: the fight against the Mountain Valley Pipeline will continue. Since the first day of the Yellow Finch blockade, one of the tree sit platforms has read “EXPECT RESISTANCE”. We meant it.

In another statement, a long time Yellow Finch tree-sitter writes:

“I didn’t know that something like this was possible before I came to Yellow Finch. I didn’t know that there were people like this in the world. I had a few close friends before, and we were all miserably trapped in capitalism, all resigned that our jobs and rent and TV shows, the partners we lived with and occasional board game nights punctuating our ultimately isolated existences were the most we could hope for in life. And we were all fundamentally Alone.

Now, after living at Yellow Finch for over a year, my conception of what is possible in life is completely different. I have witnessed what is possible with the power of community and conviction. These tree sits have lasted for over 800 days already because of a community of people who take care of each other, and a conviction that working to take care of the planet and defend the land and water is more valuable than anything capitalism can provide for us. We have survived because of the care and support from the wider local community in this area who believe in us and support us in every way they can, even in the midst of a global pandemic.

There are no bosses here. Our mission of taking care of each other and supporting the blockade of this extractive industry has been what guides us, what holds us accountable, what drives us. I have not made any money while I have been living here, but I feel richer now than I have ever felt in my life, because I am secure in the knowledge that by taking care of my friends and receiving their care in turn, I don’t /need/ the things capitalism provides. With my friends, my community, we are free.

After living here, I now know why capitalism seeks so hard to fracture us from one another. The main tactic this pipeline is trying to employ to destroy our resistance is to physically separate us from each other because TOGETHER, WE ARE STRONGER THAN IT COULD EVER BE.

Since this injunction was declared, I have been in a daze, unable to convince myself that this support camp, this place I call home is about to drastically change. Yesterday, a local supporter whom I have never met before brought us a bounteous amount of fresh, warm, homemade cornbread, and along with it a note. “Thank you for protecting our Togetherness,” is the line that hit me, broke me from my trance, and made realize my grief in what I stand to lose here.

Cooking breakfast for each other in the morning, doing the dishes together, the endless hours we spend talking and joking around the campfire, making music together, the raucous times spent playing on the trampoline, the gratification of carrying a heavy load of food or water up a steep hill to feed your friends, sitting with people in their confusion or sadness or fear and hearing them out, the inside jokes and unique vernacular that has developed through fighting and laughing and cuddling and crying with each other here, for over two years. Along with being a huge thorn in MVP’s side, costing them time and the money they worship, we have been creating a piece of the world, the future we want to see.

After reading that note from a local supporter, I broke down and cried. And my friends hugged me, held me, offered me tea, and made me laugh again. Then we kept packing, doing this sad job Together, like we have done everything else.

I know the pain that I am feeling now is a small pinprick compared to the pain of the Indigenous people who have and continue to face monumental violence at the hands of extractive industries.

The depth and wealth of community that we have built here in a little over two years will stay with us forever as we continue to honor the thousands of years of Indigenous culture and tradition and land stewardship that have been under constant attack for 500 years by settler colonialism and capitalist enterprise.

We have always known that Mountain Valley Pipeline and the courts would put more pressure on this blockade some day and that things would change. We are not just fighting for this particular piece of land; we are not fighting for any landowner in this settler State. We are fighting because the earth is worth protecting, to account for the wrongs of the past, to create a better future, and because fighting Together is better than living Alone. I hope we are honoring the rich and ongoing tradition of land defense of indigenous people.

The tree sits continue. The bravery of the people putting their bodies in the way of this pipeline cannot be expressed in words – it comes from a fierce, unyielding Love. The ground support camp, the seat of our community, cannot continue as it has the past 803 days. Along with my grief I also possess a clarity, not a hope but a secure knowledge that Together, we will keep fighting. They can’t stop us. Even if we can’t be /here/, they can’t actually stop us from being Together. That is something we have built for ourselves that they can never, never take away from us.”

  • October 31st: Halloween themed rally in solidarity with Mountain Valley Pipeline blockade held.
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