BREAKING: 21 Arrested Blockading Construction of First US Tar Sands Mine in Utah


On Monday, July 21, around 80 land defenders with Peaceful Uprising and Utah Tar Sands Resistance halted construction of the first US tar sands mine in Utah. 19 people were arrested at the site. Two more, including Tar Sands Blockade organizer Cindy Spoon, were arrested at Uintah County Jail when attempting to provide jail support for those already locked up (like figuring out what bail would be).

Reports from Utah are distressing to say the least. We are still awaiting more details from those on the ground, but it is clear many of our comrades have been arrested and are facing very serious charges. You can read more about the action on this Reuters article or in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Please help us get Cindy and all of our friends out of jail by donating to the legal fund set up by Rising Tide North America:

Here’s the full statement from Peaceful Uprising and Utah Tar Sands Resistance as of Monday night:

After a massive direct action protest today at the site of U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands strip-mining site, a total of 21 were arrested and are currently awaiting charges at Uintah County Jail in Vernal, Utah. In addition to protestors, those acting as legal observers, independent media, and jail support were arrested, as well as several indigenous and trans individuals whose safety we are deeply concerned about.

Early this morning land defenders locked themselves to equipment being used to clear-cut and grade an area designated for the tar sands’ companies processing plant, as well as a fenced “cage” used to store the equipment. Others formed a physical blockade with their bodies to keep work from happening, and to protect those locked-down to the equipment. Banners were also hung off the cage that read: “You are trespassing on Ute land” and “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.”

13 people were arrested for locking to equipment. An additional six people were arrested after sitting in the road to prevent the removal of those being taken away in two police vans. Two of the protesters arrested were injured. One was taken a nearby hospital to be treated, while the other is being treated at the Uintah County Jail. The nature of their injuries is not being disclosed by the county sheriffs.

Two additional people were arrested when they arrived at Uintah Country Jail to provide support to the land defenders inside. An estimated 10 armed deputies with police dogs were standing outside the jail wearing bullet proof vests. Those at the jail to provide support were told that the deputies were there to “deter” any supporters from actually coming to the jail.

Currently all 21 individuals are still being processed and held.

Support these brave land defenders who put their hearts and bodies on the line by donating to their legal fund.

Rising Tide North America is handling donations through The Action Network. Donate to the land defenders’ legal support fund using this secure link.

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Photo Essay: First Nations Take Their Last March Through Canada’s Dystopian Tar Sands

by Liana Lopez from t.e.j.a.s. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services). Reposted from YES! Magazine.

The fifth and final Tar Sands Healing Walk took place on June 28 in Fort McMurray, Canada. Hundreds of people joined First Nations leaders in a prayer-filled walk around the refineries and “land reclamation” projects operated by the oil company Syncrude.

“This isn’t protest or a rally,” organizer Crystal Lameman told the participants in the walk. “This is a spiritual gathering with prayers and ceremony in order to help bring all of us to an understanding about how bad this is and why it has to stop. The best way to stop it is at the source. So we need to start here.”

The Healing Walk gathering took place from June 27 to 29, with workshops and traditional ceremonies leading up to Saturday’s walk. A lot of discussion this year centered on the Canadian Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling, announced the day before the gathering, which granted aboriginal title to the Tsilhqot’in Nation. The decision may set a precedent for other First Nations, allowing them better footing in their fight against tar sands pipelines and other forms of industrial development.

In this final year of the Tar Sands Healing Walk, organizers were quick to point out that their fight is not yet won. Far from it, as tar sands extraction is ramping up in Canada.

Yet, just within the last five years, awareness about the issue has spread at a tremendous pace. And this year’s Healing Walk drew participants from all over world, including, for the first time, a Gulf Coast delegation from Houston, Texas, and Mobile, Ala., where tar sands refining and storage is set to take place this year.

“We wanted to come see the source of what will be coming to our area and learn what can be done to stop it,” said Mae Jones, who came with the Alabama delegation. “We are honored to be part of the walk this year.”

The organizers of the Healing Walk also said that, although this is the last year of the event, upcoming projects are being planned that will be just as important.

Marchers camped at a spot called Indian Beach. Although the setting was beautiful, organizers informed the marchers that the water was contaminated with heavy metals and chemicals from mining.

Organizers Crystal Lameman (at left), Eriel Deranger (with megaphone), and Jesse Cardinal (at right) lead opening ceremonies with Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Derek Nepinak (in black), and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam (in white).

First Nations women take their positions under a banner before the start of the Healing Walk.

Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Derek Nepinak and First Nation Dene drummers at the beginning of the march.

First Nation Dene drummers from Canada’s Northwest Territories played for the entirety of the walk.

The Tar Sands Healing Walk begins its 16-kilometer trek through the heart of a tar sands mining operations.

After Syncrude was fined $3 million in 2008—when more than 1,600 migratory ducks died after landing in a toxic tailings pond—the company began using decoys and air cannons to frighten birds away. The Healing Walk passed this fake bird of prey mounted in a pond, complete with robotic wing movements and recorded cries.

Marchers take one of four breaks along the route for prayer, rest, and nourishment. Each break included a prayer to one of the four winds.

Dust masks were provided, but many participants brought their own respirators to protect themselves from chemical pollutants and awful smells.

A tailings pond marks the beginning of the final segment of the Healing Walk.

The “scarecrows” hanging out in this toxic sludge resemble human employees in full work gear. They were pretty scary to the real humans walking by as well.

The view of Syncrude’s facilities from the end of the Tar Sands Healing Walk.

A marcher helps a canine companion stay cool on the walk.

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Owe Aku Sends its Voice to Tar Sands Healing Walk

Owe Aku Bear ButteA message from our allies at Owe Aku of the Lakota Nation

On June 28, 2014, Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way), a Lakota (Sioux) organization from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation dedicated to the preservation of SacredWater, stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline and all threats to Mother Earth, demonstrated support for the 5th and final Tar Sands Healing Walk. Although Owe Aku members could not travel to Ft. McMurray in Canada because of border issues created by fat taker (the literal translation from the Lakota of the word for greedy, selfish people and corporations), Owe Aku was on the Lakota sacred mountain Matopaha (Bear Butte). A camp was set up for four days and the people climbed to the top of the mountain while relatives and allies walked the toxic land created by fat taker in Alberta. This consensus statement was delivered to the people gathered at Tar Sands:

“Greetings Relatives and Allies from the Lakota People of Moccasins on the Ground, Owe Aku. We are with you in this spiritual work to protect sacred water. We send our voice in solidarity while we stand on our sacred mountain Mato Paha. We pray with you for the healing of Mother Earth and protection of sacred water, and for the spirits to turn the mind of fat taker. Together through prayer and nonviolent direct action we work to shut down the tarsands without bloodshed. On our sacred mountain we make offerings and send our voice in loving memory of all the Red Nations who have been killed by tarsands genocide. We urge solidarity by land defenders and sacred water protectors everywhere so that our future generations may collectively live on, free from the environmental slaughter inflicted by Fat Taker Corporations. As you walk the tarsands healing walk, our Warrior Society puts our Moccasins on the Ground, we stand with you, we pray with you, we fight beside you. SHUT DOWN TARSANDS. NO PIPELINE. NO TANKERS. NO COMPROMISE. Lila wopila heca.”

Tar Sands Healing Walk in Alberta. Photo credit: Healing Walk

Tar Sands Healing Walk in Alberta. Photo credit: Healing Walk

Tar Sands Healing Walk in Alberta. Photo credit: Healing Walk

Tar Sands Healing Walk in Alberta. Photo credit: Healing Walk

View more photos from the Tar Sands Healing Walk here.

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