human rights day: celebrating the determination of eco-warriors in east texas

by Tim Phillips

Over the past several months, activists have put their bodies on the line in East Texas in an attempt to prevent Canadian oil corporation TransCanada from constructing the southern section of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. TransCanada has responded by hiring off-duty police officers, filing civil suits against protesters, and calling on-duty officers to remove protesters by using, at times, pepper spray, pain compliance, and Tasers. According to a November 23 New York Times article,

Since September, when construction began on the Keystone, the Tar Sands Blockade, a grass-roots coalition of East Texas landowners and environmental advocates from across the country, has been waging a nonviolent guerrilla campaign against the pipeline. About every week since construction began, blockade volunteers have locked themselves to construction equipment in protest. So far, 43 have been arrested.

Human Rights Day honors the December 10, 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As inclusive as the Declaration is, it doesn’t mention that people need clean air and water, in addition to a climate conducive to human life, all of which are threatened by tar sands mining. On November 20, the Unis’tot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation issued a statement of solidarity with the Tar Sands Blockade that expounds on our duty to protect the natural world:

Every parent and grandparent has the responsibility to ensure a healthy planet for future generations. We implore the parents of Texas and the world to heed this call and to be accountable to the future of the children and grandchildren. We must defend the water, the air, and the land against the ravages of industry.  Let us act with bravery and take action, and let us take freedom into our own hands.

The eco-warriors in East Texas are embodying freedom by shattering any sense of inevitability regarding the pipeline. Even if you can’t physically join them, please call Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell (903-683-2271) and Wood County Sheriff Billy Wansley (903-763-2201) to demand that officers who abuse activists face discipline. All power to the blockade!