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Jun 20, 17

#NoDAPL to #SabalTrail: Lessons in Florida’s Pipeline Wars

In the wake of the #NoDAPL struggle, resistance encampments across the US have grown as thousands step up to fight pipeline and resource extraction projects that threaten both human communities and the natural environment. One of these camps is in Florida, which has formed to fight against the Sabal Trail Pipeline which endangers watersheds, schools and communities, and living ecosystems. Wanting to know more about the growing anti-pipeline movement in the wake of the #NoDAPL struggle, we reached out to someone involved in Sabal Trail Pipeline resistance to find out more information and how people can support those on the front lines.

IGD: When did you get involved in resisting the Sabal Trail Pipeline and why?

I want to say I got involved in resisting the Sabal Trail Pipeline (STP) back in October of last year. I was at a NoDAPL protest in Gainesville FL when someone, who I later found out was an Earth! Firster, handed me a flyer about a weekend workshop they were organizing to resist a local pipeline in FL, the STP. I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about STP sooner and was eager to go to the workshop. Once I went to the workshop I was hooked. I went to I don’t even know how many protests, got arrested at one of them, then camps started forming.

A few days before Christmas I was reading about Sabal Trail Resistance from the luxury of my home and it just didn’t feel good. I got rid of a lot of my belongings, sold my van, put what I was keeping in storage and by Christmas Day, I had joined Sacred Water Camp. From that point on I lived at the various camps for about 3 months.

IGD: How did the campaign take off? How has it evolved?

For me the campaign seemed to start when that first workshop happened. It attracted a lot of folks who had been watching the #NoDAPL uprisings and were getting fed up with it. Folks from all over the country came to the workshop, even folks who had been at Standing Rock, it was really successful.

It really evolved when Sacred Water Camp became a solid encampment. This gave folks who were traveling some distance a place to stay, do some action, and move on. I see this type of fluidity as very valuable to a movement. Hundreds of people came from all over the country and many of them had been at Standing Rock.

IGD: What has the response from the wider community been like to the campaign?

People that had never heard about pipelines have jumped on board! Elders and youth were getting involved, protesting, organizing, donating supplies. I think there have been plenty of folks who just didn’t get it, lots of retaliation on the internet, etc. But the folks who got the message understood the importance of protecting the environment, the water, people’s land. The support has been great!

IGD: How has the State cracked down on the resistance? Can you talk about both the repression and ways that people can support them?

There have been police stationed at each site where STP crosses under rivers. The State has sent their dogs out in mass during our protests, one in which we had about 300 protesters show up and about 80 police lined the fences, protecting the drill going underneath the Suwannee River.

There have been about 30 arrests so far, the most recent was 3 at a protest on June 10th. Other actions have included folks standing directly in front of the trucks that carries water to the drills, multiple lock downs to these trucks, and people locking down inside the pipeline with a 200 pound cement block. The resistance has been strong, but I always feel it can be stronger.

There are many ways to support those who put their lives on the line to save the Earth and its inhabitants. A main way is throwing some money their way. Often times folks want to cheer on activists while they are organizing, protesting, and doing direct action, but then folks tend to leave others in the dust during times their support is truly needed. Maybe folks don’t know enough about how the system works but often times activists are forced into taking plea deals, observers who aren’t familiar with the courts tend to see this as weakness but in actuality it is survival. In this case, taking a plea deal with restitution seemed better than being felons for the rest of our lives.

IGD: What is next for the campaign? How can people support that aren’t in the area?

Even though the gas has been turned on there are still protests happening, in addition to a memorial service for James Marker, a man who shot up the pipeline with a high powered rifle and was chased and then killed by police. At this point the folks who really need support are the ones who have thrown down and now have to deal with probation and court costs.

IGD: Lastly, coming out of the #NoDAPL struggle, what big lessons can the pipeline battles now and in the future keep in mind going forward?

Some things to keep in mind going forward is that it takes a large amount of bodies in order to get any sort of attention and to make headway, especially folks willing to do direct action.

Also there needs to be consistent communication, especially about the various tactics folks wish to use. Not everyone understands direct action and that’s okay, but let’s not stand in the way of those who wish to do that very important work.

Also, constantly working on ways in order to make the spaces safe for POC, women and LGBTQ+ folks, this seems to be an area where most activist groups really need some heavy education.

Lastly, follow through, yes it’s exciting when people are protesting and putting their bodies on the line and supporting folks during that process is valuable, but let’s not leave them hanging when it comes time to deal with the consequences of court, probation, and restitution.

More info: Sabal Trail Resistance

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