On Friday, January 25th, a group of activists agreed to a settlement in TransCanada’s lawsuit against Tar Sands Blockade, Rising Tide North Texas, Rising Tide North America, and nineteen individuals. The SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) alleged that nonviolent direct action against Keystone XL has cost TransCanada $5 million dollars. This contradicts frequent public statements by TransCanada’s spokespeople that blockaders were not impeding construction in any meaningful way.
The eight Texans who came to court to defend themselves on Friday, some of whom had not been actively involved with Tar Sands Blockade since protests in August, were threatened with losing their homes and life’s savings if the lawsuit went forward. In order to protect the livelihoods and dependents of brave activists like Tammie Carson, who locked herself to a truck carrying Keystone XL pipe, the activists agreed to settle the lawsuit. The corporation will not seek the $5 million in financial damages, and the named defendants and organizations agree to not trespass on Keystone XL property in Texas and Oklahoma or else face additional charges.
Despite this legal setback, members of Tar Sands Blockade are as determined as ever to stop Keystone XL. The sustained direct action campaign will continue. Here’s a chronology of all the direct actions taken since August 2012.
Two of the defendants and one of the defense’s attorneys made statements in response to the settlement:
Tammie Carson, a lifelong Texan, grandmother, and defendant from Arlington, TX, said:
“I took action for my grandkids’ future. I couldn’t sit idly by and watch as a multinational corporate bully abused eminent domain to build a dirty and dangerous tar sands pipeline right through Texans’ backyards. I had no choice but to settle or lose my home and everything I’ve worked for my entire life.”
Ramsey Sprague, Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson, and defendant from Fort Worth, TX, said:
“TransCanada is dead wrong if they think a civil lawsuit against a handful of Texans is going to stop a grassroots civil disobedience movement. This is nothing more than another example of TransCanada repressing dissent and bullying Texans who are defending their homes and futures from toxic tar sands.”
Lauren Regan, an attorney with the Civil Liberties Defense Center and one of the legal coordinators for the Tar Sands Blockade made the following statement:
“The SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) filed against the people and organizations that are fighting against TransCanada’s unethical and environmentally destructive pipeline will never stop the people’s resistance to the XL Pipeline. TransCanada has repeatedly attempted to violate the law and bully the people of Texas: through corporate corruption and lies, they obtained “common carrier” status in Texas in order to steal private property from low income and hard working Texans; they have attempted to bring the full weight of the police state upon nonviolent activists in an attempt to crush their peaceful resistance–using mace, tasers, and physical brutality.
Despite physical harm, lengthy incarcerations, felony charges, and now civil lawsuits to restrict their right to protest, the people have not been deterred and have only been emboldened in the face of Transcanada’s attempt at repression and bullying. At each attempt by TransCanada to chill the citizens’ rights to protest the XL Pipeline, the people’s lawyers will stand up to defend them in the Court’s. For every protestor that is jailed or beaten, ten more arrive to take that person’s place. For every homeowner who has had their land stolen, and dangerous tar sands oil now threatens their health and environment, people from around the country will band together to protect the next threatened community through a variety of nonviolent tools. Resistance is Fertile. The survival of the planet in the face of global climate change deserves nothing less.”