Indigenous pipeline protesters take over B.C. park, displace campers

An Indigenous group calling itself the Tiny House Warriors has moved into the North Thompson River Provincial Park near Clearwater, B.C., in an effort to block the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Group spokeswoman Kanahus Manuel says they are reclaiming an ancestral village their people were forced from many years ago, while at the same trying to prevent the expansion of the pipeline through their traditional territory.

Manuel says they have moved into the site and will be building tiny houses on the land in an action that has the approval of the hereditary chiefs of the Secwepemc First Nation.

She says Indigenous land defenders within the group will resist the construction of the pipeline through their territory.

A statement from the provincial Ministry of Environment says B.C. Parks is maintaining the closure of the area while efforts are made to respectfully resolve the situation and it is offering refunds to those who have booked campsites.

The ministry says it recognizes the right to engage in peaceful protest; however, it also recognizes that people, who simply want a camping experience are being inconvenienced.

Manuel responded by saying her people have been inconvenienced by colonialism for over 150 years.

“We were moved off of our lands. There are internationally protected rights which (say) Indigenous people can use and exclusively occupy their lands to maintain our culture, our language and our ways.”

She said no one from the provincial government has come to speak with them since the group cut off access to the main road into the camp.

Many of the locals support their action, she said, because they don’t want the pipeline expansion either.

Although some people have been shouting racist slogans from the vehicles, she added.

“We’ve had a few drive-by shoutings.”

The Canadian Press


Appeals Court Allows ‘Necessity Defense’ for Pipeline Protesters in Minnesota

Climate activists Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein shut down Enbridge’s tar sands pipelines 4 and 67 in Minnesota on Oct. 11, 2016. Climate Direct Action

Enbridge pipeline protesters claim threat of climate change made civil disobedience necessary

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that four anti-pipeline activists facing criminal charges have a legit case to argue the “necessity defense” in court.

According to EcoWatch, the so-called “Valve Turners” Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein were charged after shutting off the emergency valves on a pair of tar sands pipelines owned by Enbridge Energy.

The pipelines targeted were Enbridge line 4 and 67 in Leonard, Minnesota.

Johnston and Klapstein, and the two defendants who filmed them in October 2016, argue their actions to stop the flow of the polluting bitumen from Canadian tar sands fields to the U.S. were justified due to the threat of climate change and had no legal alternatives. They plan to call expert witnesses who will back them up.

Prosecutors had challenged the decision to allow the “necessity defense” arguing its inclusion would confuse a jury and be less likely to result in a conviction, but the Court ruled 2-1 against them. The state can ask the Supreme Court to take up the issue.

While District Judge Robert Tiffany allowed the necessity defense, he also warned in a ruling in October that the four must clear a high legal bar to succeed.

Another hurdle is that the jury will come from a sparsely populated county where Enbridge is a major employer and the largest property taxpayer.

Johnston and Klapstein face felony charges of criminal damage to critical public service facilities and other counts.

Attorneys expect the judge to set trial dates for sometime this summer in Clearwater County.

The necessity defense has worked for climate activists before.

Last month, a Massachusetts judge found 13 activists who were arrested for sitting in holes dug for a pipeline to block construction “not responsible by reason of necessity” because the action was taken to avoid serious climate damage.

Some Upset at Plan to Drop Lawyers in Pipeline Protest Cases

A proposal by North Dakota judges who say out-of-state lawyers are no longer needed to represent Dakota Access pipeline protesters has drawn hundreds of complaints.

Judges from the state’s South Central District, who have been handling the protest cases, say the legal provisions are no longer justified because no new cases have been filed, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

A majority of the more than 500 comments to state court officials are against the move, with many saying there’s still too much unfinished business for appointed attorneys to handle. The waiver has allowed out-of-state attorneys to represent clients as long as they sponsored by a North Dakota lawyer.

“To discontinue the special provisions at this juncture would do a great disservice to justice as it would undoubtedly result in disruption of legal representation in active cases and higher rates of unrepresented individuals,” Spirit Lake Tribal Chairwoman Myra Pearson wrote in her objection.

One comment supporting the judges’ proposal came from North Dakota Commission on Legal Counsel for Indigents, which handled 435 pipeline protest cases.

“The DAPL case assignments added significant work volume and contributed to a record-breaking year,” wrote H. Jean Delaney, the commission’s executive director. “However, the protests appear to have concluded, and there haven’t been any additional assignments since July.”

The comment period on the proposal ended Monday. Supreme Court Clerk Penny Miller says she expects the court to take up the matter within the next couple of weeks.

About 830 criminal cases were filed in connection to the DAPL protests. More than 400 have closed, most of them with dismissed charges.

Associated Press


Judge Dismisses Trespass Cases Midway Through Trial


Bismarck Tribune | Feb 17, 2017

A judge dismissed the criminal trespass charges against three pipeline protesters halfway through their jury trial this morning.

According to lawyers in the courtroom, the judge found the prosecutor had not shown the land was posted or that the protesters had been asked by an authorized person to leave — at least one of which is required to prove criminal trespass.

On Friday morning, a jury was picked and the prosecutor put five highway patrolmen on the stand. After that, the three defense attorneys motioned to get the cases dismissed.

Kent Morrow, who represented one of the women charged, said in an interview after court that the patrolmen testified to people being on private property, but not to anyone with authority over the property telling them to leave.

“The judge said the law and statute is pretty clear,” Morrow said.

In his defense, Morton County State’s Attorney Brian Grosinger argued in court that the protesters should have known the land was private.

“What I had argued to the judge was I could prove notice by circumstantial evidence,” Grosinger said in an interview. “By the circumstances surrounding — considering it was a construction site, the people were wearing masks.”

The three Dakota Access Pipeline protesters were among 22 people arrested at a construction site near Almont on Sep. 13. According to an affidavit filed with the charges, a highway patrol captain “advised the protesters they were protesting and subject to arrest.”

Bruce Nestor, a Minnesota-based attorney representing some pipeline protesters, recently got three trespass cases from the same day dismissed on similar grounds after filing a motion.

Watching the trial today, Nestor said: “This was the same thing, except here the state wasted the judge’s time, the jury’s time and brought six highway troopers in from their normal duties to spend half a day at the Morton County Courthouse.”

Grosinger said he would work to prove notice more adequately in future trials.


Tensions Rise Between Standing Rock Sioux and Pipeline Protesters

Texas Groups Vow to Block Natural-Gas Pipeline Project

Photo: Protesters gather where the Trans-Pecos Pipeline is being built near Alpine's "Sunny Glen" neighborhood. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

Red Power Media | Dec 31, 2016

ALPINE, Texas – A recent victory by protesters in North Dakota to stop a portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline has inspired West Texas environmental groups that oppose a similar project.

Protesters of the Trans-Pecos Pipeline, including the Big Bend Defense Coalition, have recently escalated from informational pickets to civil disobedience, with more confrontational protests planned in the coming weeks.

Lori Glover, leader of the coalition, said it took a while for West Texas residents to fully understand what’s at stake if the project is completed.

“That realization, when I started talking to people, that they knew nothing about our pipeline, which is also an Energy Transfer Partners pipeline, and we had been fighting it before Standing Rock had started fighting theirs,” she said.

Glover said the groups plan to establish an encampment in the path of the pipeline to permanently block its progress. She calls it ironic that, since the gas would flow to Mexico, the pipeline wouldn’t benefit anyone living along its route. Builder Energy Transfer Partners said in Mexico, the gas will replace coal to run power plants with less pollution.

The 148-mile pipeline would transport natural gas from Fort Stockton into Mexico, under the Rio Grande River. In early December, Glover and others were arrested after they chained themselves to a fence at a construction site. She said the pipeline is routed through pristine parts of West Texas, and completing it will damage the ecosystem.

“If you see how much displacement happens when they create a pipeline, it’s easy to understand how this huge space going through a creek bed is going to disrupt the flow of these important tributaries to the Rio Grande,” she explained.

Glover said many of the groups that protested in North Dakota have pledged to join the Texas encampment, which she said should be in place at an undisclosed location along the pipeline route by early next year.

Source: Texas News Service

Photo: Protesters gather where the Trans-Pecos Pipeline is being built near Alpine’s “Sunny Glen” neighborhood. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

Prosecutor Asks Judge to Keep Environmental, Treaty Issues Out of First Protester Trial


Staff | Bismarck Tribune – Dec 15, 2016

The first pipeline protesters will go on trial Monday and the prosecutor is asking that they keep issues of tribal sovereignty, the concerns about the Dakota Access Pipeline and “any other social or political cause” out of the courtroom.

“This trial is not being held so there can be a forum to extend the months of conflict and context over these extraneous issues,” Ladd Erickson, who is prosecuting the case for Morton County, wrote in a motion filed Dec. 12.

But a local criminal defense attorney involved in the protest cases said the 10 people set to be tried on disorderly conduct charges have “a right to explain why they were there,” which the prosecutor’s request seems to preclude. The protesters fear pipeline construction disturbed sacred sites and that a leak could contaminate the Missouri River.

“They just didn’t parachute in from Mars,” Tom Dickson said. “They certainly have a right to say why they were there, why they were doing what they were doing.”

South Central District Judge Cynthia Feland, who is overseeing the trial, has yet to rule on the motion.

The trial pertains to 10 pipeline protesters arrested on Aug. 11, one of the first days of the protests, when protesters gathered near a construction site on Highway 1806 in Morton County. They are scheduled for a joint misdemeanor trial at the Morton County Courthouse on Monday morning.

The defendants are charged with with disorderly conduct, a B misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and $1,500 in fines. An affidavit filed with the complaint accuses the defendants of pushing through law enforcement lines or police tape to access the work site. Erickson suggests in court documents that, if convicted, the state would seek $1,000 from each defendant to repay law enforcement costs.

Dickson contends the charges are inherently political.

“People have gotten arrested while espousing their political viewpoint which at some point the state contends violates the law,” Dickson said.

But the judge has suggested in her responses to court motions that she believes the alleged conduct, if proven, is criminal.

In an order responding to a defendant’s requests to dismiss her case because she was exercising her First Amendment rights, Feland wrote that the defendant’s alleged actions, crossing onto an access road to the work site against police orders, went beyond free speech.

“The court recognizes that the First Amendment gives the public a right to voice their concerns, to protest lawfully, to criticize the police and even to yell profanities at police officers, Feland wrote in her order.

“Under the facts alleged, rather than obeying the orders of law enforcement and conducting the protest in a peaceful and lawful manner, the defendant directly disobeyed law enforcement and deliberately crossed into undesignated areas, creating a hazardous and alarming condition for both law enforcement officers and Dakota Access construction workers,” she wrote.

Due to this being the first pipeline trial, 65 potential jurors — the number usually called for a felony trial — have been called to fill the six-person misdemeanor jury, according to Ross Munns, assistant court administrator for the region.

Erickson, the prosecutor, noted there could be issues picking a jury due to the public nature of the case and protests.

“The whole state is invested in this,” Erickson said. “It’s not a typical case where the jurors haven’t heard anything on it.”

The trial is scheduled for one day, with extra tables and chairs to accommodate the 20 lawyers and defendants, but Dickson suggested it could take more than a day just to pick the jury.

“It’s more than just been in the news,” Dickson said. “This has been high-profile and high-involvement by the community.”

In advance of the trial, Feland has ordered court-appointed attorneys to track their hours spent preparing for the cases. This is in response to a motion by Erickson, who indicated in court documents he will seek hearings on repayment of public defender fees after trial. He contends protesters are seeking to cost the state and county money through their arrests and criminal cases.

“Our systems are set up so criminal defendants have their constitutional rights enforced. To the contrary, our systems are not set up to be foddered by economic weaponry when people from around the world come to intentionally commit crimes for political purposes and have North Dakota taxpayers pick up the tab,” Erickson wrote in a motion filed Dec. 12.

At least four of the defendants have court-appointed counsel.

Public defenders have been assigned 287 cases and are requesting an additional $670,000 to pay for the additional lawyers, according to Jean Delaney, executive director of the indigent defense commission. Delaney said it’s not uncommon for the state to try and recoup fees, but it’s typically dependent on the person’s funds, not their intentions.

“Whether there is recoupment ordered is based on whether there is a possibility of the client being able to pay it,” Delaney said.

Feland is a former prosecutor, who recently dismissed felony charges against more than 100 protesters arrested during a raid of the northern “front line” camp.

The defendants include Sara Jumping Eagle, a doctor and wife of former congressional candidate Chase Iron Eyes. For two of the 10 defendants, Monday will not be their last date in court, as they have additional open cases relating to pipeline arrests.

The defendants are from 9 different states, including North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon and Hawaii. They range in age from 23 to 57 years old.

Monday’s trial is just the first pipeline protest trial of the week. Sixteen more protesters are scheduled for trials on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, according to the court clerk’s office.

A total of 571 people have been arrested in connection with the pipeline protests, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.

Kellie Leitch Pledges To ‘Lock Up’ Unlawful Pipeline Protesters

Kellie Leitch arrives at the Conservative summer caucus retreat in Halifax on Sept. 13. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Kellie Leitch arrives at the Conservative summer caucus retreat in Halifax on Sept. 13. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Conservative leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch is pledging to “lock up” and monitor Canadians who unlawfully protest pipeline projects if she becomes prime minister.

Leitch made the promise in her latest incendiary press release, sent hours before a bilingual debate in Moncton, N.B., in which she affirmed support for the Energy East pipeline project.

“We will not tolerate acts of vandalism or violence from those who would illegally stand in the way of the economic prosperity of our people,” the Tory MP said in the release. “There is a place for legitimate protest, but we will lock up the agitators and activists who resort to vandalism and violence when they do not get their way.”

Leitch took to Facebook to unveil a so-called “five-point plan” to promote natural resource projects, including unspecified stiffer penalties for unlawful protesters.

She promised to create a “new force” comprised of “specialized components” of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada Revenue Agency and Global Affairs Canada. Such a group would “coordinate investigations, freeze bank accounts, and lay charges” against illegal protesters.

And she also pledged to “classify environmental lobbying as a political activity to ensure transparency in funding and get international money out of the process.” Canadian charitable foundations can currently maintain their tax exempt status as long as no more than 10 per cent of their resources are dedicated to political activities.

“We will lock up the agitators and activists who resort to vandalism and violence when they do not get their way.”

The release comes as Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr continues to face questions over his suggestion the Canadian military could be used to quash illegal protests over the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. He made his comments to Alberta business leaders last week.

“If people choose for their own reasons not to be peaceful, then the government of Canada, through its defence forces, through its police forces, will ensure that people will be kept safe,” Carr said.

Jim Carr, right, Minister of Natural Resources, speaks as Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, appear at a press conference in Richmond, B.C., on Sept. 27. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Jim Carr, right, Minister of Natural Resources, speaks as Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, appear at a press conference in Richmond, B.C., on Sept. 27. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The minister later told CBC News those remarks weren’t meant to be a “warning” to protesters.

In question period Friday, B.C. NDP MP Randall Garrison urged the defence minister to remind his colleague the “federal government has no such authority to use our military against pipeline protests.” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Liberals see peaceful protest as a “cornerstone” of Canadian democracy.

Elizabeth May ready to go to jail fighting pipeline

The $6.8-billion Kinder Morgan project is expected to yield more protests from indigenous groups and climate change activists who argue the federal government lacks the “social license” to greenlight the project.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May told the Huffington Post Canada she’s willing to be arrested fighting the project.

“If there are blockades as construction begins, I’m more than prepared to be there to block construction and be arrested and go to jail,” May said in an interview last week. “This is not an issue where you compromise.”

Police Issue 99 Trespass Citations During Pipeline Protest On Parliament Hill

A protester is detained by Parliamentary Security and the RCMP after she attempted to go through a barrier during a demonstration on Parliament Hill, Monday October 24, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

A protester is detained by Parliamentary Security and the RCMP after she attempted to go through a barrier during a demonstration on Parliament Hill, Monday October 24, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

The Canadian Press, Oct 24 2016

OTTAWA – The Liberal government’s conflicting climate and pipeline policies were thrown into sharp relief Monday as more than 200 protesters marched on Parliament Hill demanding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reject any new oilsands infrastructure.

The protest resulted in the brief detention of 99 individuals, all of them issued citations by the RCMP for trespassing after climbing over police barricades near the foot of the Peace Tower.

The immediate focus of the demonstration was the proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C., which the Liberals have said they’ll decide upon by mid-December.

But the larger theme was keeping fossil fuels in the ground, as many signs proclaimed, and urging Trudeau to keep his word on Canada’s international emissions-cutting promises.

On Monday, the World Meteorological Organization released its 2015 inventory of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and found that, on average, there were 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in earth’s atmosphere. That compares to about 278 parts per million before the industrial revolution.

The report predicts that “2016 will be the first year in which CO2 at the Mauna Loa Observatory remains above 400 ppm all year, and hence for many generations.”

It is that cumulative increase that pipeline protesters insist doesn’t allow for more expansion of fossil fuels such as Alberta’s oilsands.

“Climate Leaders Don’t Build Pipelines,” said a giant banner carried at the front of the protest group, which was dominated by university students from Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.

Protest organizers called it the largest act of student climate civil disobedience in Canadian history, but the boisterous rally was a polite affair.

After some initial pushing and shoving at the police barricades, the protesters began individually climbing over the gates, often with police assistance, where they were then charged. The first dozen or so were handcuffed before being led away, but most of the detained protesters were not.

Andrew Stein, a McGill University environmental sciences student, said forcing the police to arrest them was the point of the exercise.

“It gets attention and it gets the word out there that climate leaders do not build pipelines,” Stein said in an interview shortly before climbing the barricade himself.

Protest spokeswoman Amanda Harvey-Sanchez, a third-year University of Toronto student, said pipeline approvals are a deal-breaker for many younger voters who helped propel the Trudeau Liberals to a majority government in last October’s general election.

“If Trudeau wants us on his team in 2019, he cannot approve this (Trans Mountain) pipeline,” said Harvey-Sanchez.

“We’re coming here to the capital to call on Trudeau to reject Kinder Morgan.”

Protest organizers said the 99 detained individuals, including Stein and Harvey-Sanchez, were issued citations that bar them from Parliament Hill for three months, but they were not fined.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr shrugged off the protest, saying “dissent is the hallmark of democracy.”

“We’ve been saying all along that environmental stewardship and economic growth go hand-in-hand in Canada,” he said.

“We have already announced — and we will continue to announce — very aggressive measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, always mindful of job opportunities for Canadians in the clean technology sector and in the energy sector overall.”