In West Virginia on April 9th, construction crews attempted to clear trees on Bent Mountain. In response, locals organized themselves and stood the clearing crew down. The following report comes from Farmlands Fighting Pipelines, and shows how the slogan #TheFireIsSpreading is fast becoming a reality.
Earlier today, a people’s patrol unit was organized in Bent Mountain in order to monitor MVPs activity. We split up to cover our ground, and kept eyes on the places where we predicted construction crews would enter from. Around 8am, a caravan of Northern Clearing employees was spotted and followed. When asked by a local, the clearing crew refused to provide documentation of a Notice to Proceed for the section they were preparing to cut and told us to wait for someone named Steve who would deliver the documentation. Turns out, Steve is a Global Security mercenary of the company and had no knowledge of the legality of MVPs plans. C’mon Steve.
Steve and his partner, Jennifer, lied to us saying that all the the trees that were pertinent to the tree clearing deadline—which passed on March 31st—had already been cut. He told the crew to proceed to do their job. The people’s patrol unit tailed them to ensure that the illegal tree clearing would be monitored. We found this tactic to be surprisingly effective. While we were present, the crew was instructed to not fell any trees. We imagine they wanted to prevent any documentation of their activity. In fact, they chose a location that was far from the road and not visible to the public.
And while we were monitoring, we were able to speak to a rep from FERC who confirmed that absolutely no tree clearing was permissible. The crews work-plan was called off and we followed them back up to the access road thinking that we had made a small but dignified victory for the day. That was….until we saw the police.
In active defense of the companies illegal activity, two police officers threatened us with arrests for trespassing on MVP property. As we clearly pointed out the property boundaries (indicated by colorful stakes) that we stood behind, the police indignantly made allegations that we were on MVPs easement. They then detained several members of the peoples patrol unit while refusing to indicate whose property we were actually trespassing on—they didn’t know for themselves. But of course, when you’ve got a gun on hip and the ability to throw someone in a cage, you don’t need facts to form a basis for your power.
With continued unjustified threats of arrest, the police forced the people’s patrol unit to leave the area and then proceeded to permit the company to continue their blatantly impermissible tree cutting.
We intend to continue to refine and deploy this tactic. So far as we know, there can be no tree clearing at this point, anywhere. We encourage others to form their own units that can monitor and disrupt illegal construction in your community.