Reports from the front line of the Hellbender Autonomous zone.
In so-called Virginia, a blockade of tree-sitters continues to prevent work on the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) for a thirtieth day. Loggers for the MVP are cutting trees near the sitters and their traverses, unsuc cessfully attempting to intimidate blockaders and their supporters.
Lauren and Nettle are stationed in two trees that remain in the path of the proposed 300-mile fracked-gas project. MVP showed up on Thursday, Sep 27. Global Security called the cops as MVP threatened to remove Lauren and Nettle from the trees. Global Security is privately doing surveillance of protesters for MVP.
The cops stayed at the bottom of the hill where the blockade is located. MVP could not figure out where the pipeline was supposed to go, due to iffy GPS.
“Since they didn’t know where the easement was, the cops could not do anything since MVP didn’t even know if we were actually blocking the path of the pipeline,” Nettle said.
MVP ultimately left without felling any trees on Thursday.
They were completely wrong with their initial guess of where the easement was,” Nettle added. “Both the trees that Lauren and I occupy, and the trees that the traverses are anchored to are all on the easement.”
Workers returned early the next morning and began cutting all remaining trees at the bottom of the hill, across a small wetland. Then they moved onto the hill, approaching the resistance site.
“They crossed over to cut trees beside the creek, and cut very close to Lauren’s traverse line,” Nettle said. “Supporters gathered at the bottom of the line and were threatened with calling the cops since ‘they were too close to the loggers’ even though the loggers were endangering the safety of Lauren.”
MVP has not measured any distances from the blockade to where they are felling trees. It is unconfirmed whether or not MVP has a tape measure.
Lauren and Nettle’s supporters offered to rent a tape measure to the surveyors at a reasonable hourly rate. MVP declined to do so, and continued to cut trees with little regard for safety or regulations.
“By the end of the day, all of the trees in the wetland in front of the creek were gone,” Nettle said. “Lauren’s traverse protected any cutting on the hillside beyond the creek. The scar that had been previously just on the ridge over was creeping closer to us.”
A private security SUV with no license plates arrived at the bottom of the hill Friday evening, and stayed until dawn.
On Saturday, loggers cut most remaining trees at the top of the hill, further away from the blockade. The security vehicle came again that night, still lacking license plates. The individual in the vehicle declined to speak to anyone, instead opting to smoke in his car silently with the windows rolled up.
On Sunday, MVP arrived early with loggers accompanied by private security. Cutting resumed as loggers felled all but a couple dozen of the trees atop the hill before lunchtime.
“Throughout the day the chainsaw noises got closer and closer,” Nettle said. “They left for a bit and then returned after lunch and began cutting at the top of the hill. I got on the traverse lines connected to the white pine I live on, a tulip poplar to my left up the slope and a red pine directly up the slope from me. This was in an effort to protect the trees close by the ones I was anchored to. If a tree fell and hit the traverse line or the tree, it would endanger me.”
Jenny works for Global Security. Jenny summoned three Montgomery County Sheriffs (half the entire department) to the site in an effort to intimidate those daring to resist the pipeline.
Steve works for Global Security. Steve lies about safety.
“I have to resume cutting as far as I can without presenting a danger within 200 feet,” Steve said. “That is the safety buffer. I don’t want anybody getting hurt out here.”
When asked if this safety buffer applied to a traverse between Nettle’s sit and a tree further uphill, Steve confirmed the “regulation”. Cutting within 200 feet of the traverse would be “Not safe..for y’all,” he said.
“They promised that they would not cut close to the lines but then continued to do so,” Nettle said. “Supporters stood by the trees, reminding the loggers that they would endanger my life if they cut too close. The loggers did not listen. MVP security threatened the people on the ground with law enforcement if they stood within 200 feet of the tree cutting. There were arguments about what constituted 200 feet. MVP of course did not have a tape measure.”
MVP was again presented with an offer to rent a tape measure at a reasonable hourly rate from the tree-sitters’ supporters. Again, they declined, instead opting to fell trees well within the “safety buffer”. Nettle got out on a traverse and moved closer to the cutting.
“People stood their ground to protect us tree-sitters and the trees,” Nettle said. “Regardless of the regulations that no one could be within 200 feet, MVP cut within eighty feet of the tree I was anchored to. Trees fell within forty feet of the tree and within seventeen feet of my traverse line. My heart was beating hard but I trusted my friends on the ground to look out for me, and for Lauren to yell from above at them (she’s fierce as fuck).”
After cutting all the trees at the top of the hill, the workers went back to the bottom of the hill, where the sheriffs had remained for the duration of the standoff. One worker mentioned his increasing frustration with those resisting the pipeline. The sheriff expressed his sympathies for the loggers.
“Well, they’re getting paid,” the sheriff said, referring to the tree-sitters and their supporters. When asked who he thought was funding the resistance, he responded, “I don’t know. I haven’t figured that out yet.”
MVP left, taking their failing intimidation tactics with them. The unidentified private security would not return that night. On the hill, Lauren, Nettle and their supporters remain, ready to face whatever may come next.
“The chainsaw noises stopped ringing in our ears and we celebrated another day in the trees and on this land together,” Nettle said. Having cut all the trees on either side of the hill of resistance, MVP has not resumed cutting in the area since the weekend.
On Tuesday, the Army Corps of Engineers’ water crossing permit for the MVP was revoked by the Fourth Circuit US Court of Appeals. Now lacking several permits, the project may be on its last legs. The EQT corporation is the primary owner of the MVP. EQT stock is currently at a five-year low.
A note from Nettle regarding cops
CW: Police violence, white supremacist violence
I heard someone on the ground remark that the cops weren’t doing anything to stop the loggers from potentially injuring us. They were just standing at the bottom of the hill while people on the ground were screaming at the loggers to not threaten our lives. Y’all, we’ve got to stop being surprised by this. Cops do not protect us. Cops have never had that purpose and will never have that purpose.
Cops time and time again have sided with profit, private property (most all land is stolen land in the so-called usa), corporations, greed, and white supremacists (many are white supremacists themselves). I have witnessed firsthand cops slamming nonviolent protesters to the ground on a public sidewalk.
I have witnessed a line of cops standing guard at a parking lot closed off for white supremacists, while they spit on us from the roof and told us they wished we were dead. I have even witnessed cops tear gassing a crowd with children in it.
Time and time again we’ve seen and heard about cops escalating situations, ending in police brutality and murder. So no, the cops don’t protect us. We protect us.
Nettle on calling the cops
Before you call the cops, think about how they could escalate the situation. Look around you. Are there houseless people? People of color? Trans people? Undocumented people? How could they be affected if you bring the cops into the situation? This is a great compilation of resources about alternatives to calling the police.
Folks who want to get involved can contact Appalachians Against Pipelines.