This update comes from Victoria Forest Action Network (VICFAN), a grassroots organization fiercely committed to land defense in British Columbia. See also The Courage to Speak Truth to Power, a speech by VICFAN’s Zoe Blunt recently published at the DGR News Service.
We wanted to pass on to this newsletter from the Seneca Lake resisters to fracked gas storage and transport, especially since, due to security measures, they do not generally allow us to forward info about the struggle. They are amazingly organized, smart about the resistance, and committed to winning and to one another.
The Banner, Vol. 1, No. 38 – September 15, 2015
We Are Family
Families work together, play together, dine together, agree and disagree together, share good and bad days together, support one another, and love each other. The family We Are Seneca Lake does all this and more.
We are a family of thousands. Hundreds of us are trained. We have come together 40 times in ten months. Over 500 of us have put our bodies on the line. 334 of us have taken that special ride downtown, earning 400 tickets in all.
This family has it goin’ on!
We are fiercely dedicated and persistent defenders of health, home and community. We protect what we love: the waters, tillable land, sustainable jobs, and clean air of the Finger Lakes and, of course, our families. We say NO to global warming and social injustice, we refuse to allow trespassing corporations to pollute the natural commons we depend on for life and living , and we say YES to renewable energy! That’s our thing. That’s how we roll.
We have accomplished a lot together. Our family continues to grow. Our story, once told locally and then regionally, is now gaining national attention. Our family name is recognized by more and more Americans each day. These Americans are learning why Crestwood’s plan to store fracked gases under the banks of Seneca Lake is a bad idea. We continue to teach.
I am proud to be a member of the We Are Seneca Lake family. And I am proud to have such worthy brothers and sisters as you. Our family name continues to gain great respect due to your ideals, ethics and action. You are awesome!
Together we are unstoppable
— Doug Couchon
About Last Thursday…
The excitement in the air Thursday morning was palpable as the Seneca Lake cavalry rolled. It felt a bit like a reunion. The excitement to get back on the line was evident. First timers and veteran defenders listened carefully to their instructions.
After my second arrest last November, I didn’t think I would need to risk arrest again. Maybe I was naive to think we would have beaten this thing by now. All of the return offenders offered up their reasons for coming back: Judge Berry’s refusal to dismiss the 84 cases, their friends and family still facing charges, the fire at Crestwood earlier this week, a stronger resolve to finish this fight.
Things went as usual with the exception of a crazed pickup driver nearly running down a couple defenders. We were not there long before the police arrived and escorted us off in the paddy wagon. I’ve seen it so many times over the past 8 months. We chatted on our way down to booking like old friends. It was just another day at the gates of Crestwood, but it was so much more. We reached 400 arrests.
On my drive home, I thought about the magnitude of this. On 400 occasions, someone put their body on the line to fight this project. And that is just the tip of the iceberg, the part that we see. Those people went home and told their friends about what they’d done, woke up early on their days off to table at events, canvassed, passed out information, collected signatures on petitions, supported their fellow defenders outside the court house, attended rallies, made donations, wrote letters to their elected officials and made daily phone calls. They are living this battle against Crestwood.
My experience today only reaffirmed what I’ve learned over the last year. This is a family. We have joined together to do something incredible. Four hundred arrests is a remarkable accomplishment. We should pause and celebrate the amount of work that has gone into this: time away from family, early mornings, missed work, freezing toes, sweaty brows. But let us pause for only a minute, because there is so much work to be done. We must continue to foster our connections with each other and the water of Seneca Lake, because the battle against Crestwood is far from over.
To learn more or join members of DGR NY in getting involved, visit We Are Seneca Lake
In the past year, we're seeing a surge of land defense actions in BC and elsewhere in Canada. Zoe Blunt of Victoria Forest Action Network compiled this list to help keep track of current, ongoing, and flying blockades, along with ways to get involved and support the actions.
We are ALL BEING CALLED to support these land defenders. To answer the call, email Zoe at firstname.lastname@example.org – she can help set up ride shares and give advice for fundraising.
Current and ongoing blockades
Also see a November 15, 2015 addition of two blockades on Vancouver Island.
- Injunction and arrests at Shawnigan Lake, Vancouver Island: Community residents, including members of the Cowichan First Nation, are seeking an injunction to shut down toxic soil dumping in their drinking watershed. The dump overflowed during heavy rain November 13, 2015. Meanwhile the company is seeking an injunction to shut down the protestors, two of whom were arrested Noveber 13.
- Walbran Valley blockade: Members of the Pacheedaht First Nation and non-native environmentalists have built a camp to stop the clearcutting of ancient cathedral forests just outside a park boundary. The Walbran has been the site of massive protests, civil disobedience, and sabotage for twenty years.
- Ongoing: Coastal First Nations vs. Grizzly hunters. For two years, the Coastal Forest Guardians have been patrolling the central coast of BC and "educating" grizzly hunters and guides about the ban on hunting on their territory. The province continues to issue trophy hunting permits and now the Guardians say they are escalating their enforcement of the ban.
- Happening now: Ahousaht First Nation on Vancouver Island is using boats to stop a new salmon farm in their territorial waters. Media reports here.
- Ongoing: Gitdumden Clan of the Wet'suwet'en (neighbours to Unist'ot'en) in Northern BC. They are occupying their territory to block pipelines, logging, and mining.
- New: Likhts'amisyu Clan of the Wet'suwet'en (neighbours to Unist'ot'en), Northern BC. They are occupying their territory to block pipelines. This is Chief Toghestiy's camp. FB page.
- Ongoing: Lax Kw'alaams First Nation vs. LNG pipeline terminal, near Prince Rupert BC. The drilling platform was barged into position near Lelu Island in a bay that holds millions of young salmon. The community is mobilizing to occupy the island and surround the barge. News story here.
- Occasional: Shawnigan Lake, Vancouver Island: The community has been trying to blockade a contaminated soil dump in the drinking watershed for Victoria and the south island. It is largely symbolic but it has potential. News report.
- One-day blockade near Powell River to protect wildlife. In May nine women surrounded a feller-buncher to stop it from working in a sensitive habitat area. They are demanding logging stop during nesting season, and an end to clear-cutting on the Sunshine Coast. More protests are expected.
- Nicola Valley Chiefs and locals are blockading a biosolids dump near Merritt, BC and preventing sewage sludge from being trucked into their community. No shipments have made it through the blockade in over a month, and the companies responsible are preparing for a court hearing to have the protestors removed. Fundraising link here.
- Ongoing: Voices of the Voiceless camp is an Indigenous re-occupation of Junction Creek area, St'at'imc Nation, 50 km north of Lillooet and about 250 km north of Vancouver. This camp was set up March 2015 under the direction of Xwisten elders to stop logging. The site is near a heritage site and the Junction Creek summer village, a traditional meeting place where people hunt, gather and process food. Video: Re occupying Junction Creek, Christine Jack's Welcome – YouTube
- Victory: The Heiltsuk First Nation is fighting for the recovery of herring stocks on the Central Coast of BC. After the feds opened their territory to commercial fishing in March 2015, they occupied offices and set off solidarity rallies. UPDATE: Their blockade is now over and the government has caved in and closed the fishery.
- The Sapotaweyak Cree Nation in Manitobais protecting sacred sites by blockading workers cutting trees for a hydroelectric transmission line.
- Ongoing: Burnaby/Langley – KM pipeline: 120 locals and allies were arrested in two weeks at a tarsands pipeline test drill site near Vancouver. In 2015, drillers and surveyors are trying to do their work in various locations but people report their whereabouts and they are confronted and prevented from working. The Kwantlen First Nation is leading the charge for the next round of resistance, which shows signs of escalating further (workers threatened, truck vandalized, equipment stolen).
- The Nuu-chah-nulth Nations have closed the spring herring fishery in the strait off the west coast of Vancouver Island. They are promising to intercept commercial vessels with their own boats.
- Blockade down: The Northern Trappers Alliance, a traditional Dene group, was blocking forest roads near Ducharme, Saskatchewan to push back against the loss of wildlife and land to drilling, pipelines, and gates. The protest camp and picket line were moved to the side of the road after an injunction was issued and RCMP seized a trailer.
- Victory: Tseshaht Nation, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island: Blockade down and victory – the province has agreed to stop timber sales in old-growth forests of the Nahmint Valley. The Tseshaht are monitoring to make sure this agreement is respected.
- Blockade down: Klabona Keepers, Talhtan Nation (near Iskut) Blockade removed after injunction issued. They were blocking Imperial Metals mine in Sacred Headwaters and other projects in various locations. They are still seeking volunteers, rideshares, donations, and legal help. These traditionalists boycotted the injunction hearing and withdrew for now.
- Victory: Penelakut (Grace Islet, near Salt Spring Island) Development site on burial ground. Blockade down: The province is moving to intervene and purchase the development site.
- Sabine Channel (between Lasqueti Island and Texada Island) Oct 4: One-day blockade of coal tanker traffic.
- Ongoing: Unis'tot'en Camp, (near Smithers) Permanent camp – blocking tarsands and gas pipelines for five years. Get info about the Caravan.
- Ongoing: Madii Lii Camp (Gitxsan) New permanent camp – blocking tarsands and gas pipelines.
- Ongoing: Sutikalh (near Lillooet) Permanent camp on St'at'imc territory, blocking resort development for over ten years.
By Dan Planet, Deep Green Resistance
Just a short post on my visit to Hambach Forest in Germany, a resistance camp set up to defend the forest and prevent the RWE mine (Europe’s largest CO2 emitter) from further destroying the planet. (For background on the struggle, see The Battle for the Hambach Forest.)
I arrived for the skill share camp which was a whole week of people hosting workshops on everything to do with activism from tree climbing, blockades, dealing with police, discussions on politics, philosophy etc. The defenders are very welcoming and will speak in English even if like me your German is almost non-existent! The determination to protect the forest is really quite something else when you see the blockades, tree houses and the protectors doing what they do. I camped in the woods not far from the main camp, which is considered a little risky, but I wouldn’t have it any other way as the woods are truly amazing to wake up in.
My time in Hambach was inspiring but what I remembered more than any of the workshops or connections that I made was the forest itself. Nowhere more than Hambach have I found such contrast between natural and unnatural, sane and insane, ecology and industry, life and absolute devastation. The forest and the RWE mine couldn’t be more different. To use the Tolkien mythology, I literally at times felt like I was in Fangorn Forest and that Mordor was somewhere lurking near at the edge ready to eat up what is now left of the beautiful and delicate forest. In England we have pockets of ancient forest but I still wasn’t prepared for how enchanting this particular forest was and the bravery and determination of the people who want to defend it.
In short, if you can then please visit and stay a while…or stay until RWE encounter too much resistance and give up their ecocide!
View my pictures of Hambach Forest (it will be much greener now!), and visit the official Hambach Forest website.
By Michael Regenfuss of Deep Green Resistance
There is an ongoing fight, just north of Düsseldorf, Germany, to save the Hambach Forest, Germany’s last old growth forest. The forest is a 1,000 hectare old growth oak forest right next to the largest open cast coal mine in Europe. The mine is 12 kilometers long, 4 kilometers wide, and 300 meters deep. The mine produces 100,000,000 tons of coal per year, used to supply 5 power plants.
The coal is used primarily for the weapons manufacturing industry in the nearby Rhineland industrial district. The mine is set to operate until 2045. The forest was acquired in 1978 by RWE, which now operates the mine. The forest was originally 5,500 hectares and since 1972 had been owned by the municipality of Niederzier. Since 1978 the forest has largely been cleared to make way for brown coal mining.
The company has also been using a law that the Nazis used to take land from people to evict people from entire villages. Over a ten year period this relocation process has removed entire village populations and demolished the structures to mine the coal underneath. During the relocation process some elders have died due to the stress and heartbreak of losing their homes. Many people are coming down with cancers, heart disease, and emphysema from airborne toxic particles.
The remaining forest, despite its dramatic diminution, is still a functioning habitat. It consists primarily of oak and hornbeam, who shelter endangered Bechstein’s bats.
An ongoing blockade has been in place since April 2012 to save this remnant forest. The blockade was evicted from the forest in November 2012, but after only one day they regrouped and occupied a meadow next to the forest. In April 2013 they reoccupied the forest. More recent actions included a treesit in a 250 year old oak at the edge of the forest, a group of Earth First! members blocking the loading of coal trucks, and a protest in nearby Bergheim against a newly built coal burning plant.
The struggle continues to save the Hambach Forest. For slides, videos, and more information on past actions and on the current blockade, visit Hambach Forest (English) or Hambacher Forst (German). If you can physically help with the blockade, please join them in person. You can also donate money through their website. Whatever you can do would be really appreciated. Time is running out for this place; the final showdown for this forest will probably happen by August 2015. Thank you for your interest and support to save this beautiful place.
We recently highlighted Will Falk’s account as one of the Deep Green Resistance volunteers who braved the January snow and ice to help out at the Unist’ot’en Camp. Max Wilbert wrote another moving personal piece giving an overview of the Unist’ot’en Camp strategy and describing the experience of contributing to their struggle.
Snow lashed the road. The darkness was total, our headlights casting weak yellow beams into the darkness. Most people had hunkered down in homes and motels, and the roads were near empty. Still, every few minutes a passing truck threw a blinding cloud of dry snow into the air, leaving us blind for seconds at a time as we hurtled onwards at the fastest speeds we could manage.
We pressed on, for our destination was important. It was a caravan to the Unist’ot’en Camp, and we were committed.
Resistance is the antipode to the dominant culture, and the Unist’ot’en Camp illustrates two interlocking and fundamental truths. First, the system which is killing the planet and exploiting billions can and must be stopped. Second, resistance is our best chance of reclaiming the best traits our species can display: compassion, love, fierce loyalty, deep connection to the land, community and shared purpose.
Read Wilbert’s essay at Deep Green Resistance Seattle: Falling in Love and let it inspire you to support the Camp or another strategic campaign near and dear to you.