Vermont Pipeline Protestor Arrested in D.C. Describes Experience
Disobedient demonstrators arrested in a climate-change protest at the White House on Saturday were held in what one Vermont detainee called “deliberately harsh” conditions before being released without penalties on Monday afternoon.
Christopher Shaw, a 62-year-old Bristol resident, writer and Middlebury College lecturer, suggests that federal and District of Columbia police were trying to discourage activists from moving ahead with daily arrests planned for the next two weeks.
If that's so, the authorities' strategy is not proving successful. A total of 93 demonstrators were arrested at the White House on Sunday and Monday in addition to the 65 locked up on Saturday. Organizers of the effort to persuade President Obama to block a Canada-Texas oil pipeline say about 1500 people have pledged to join the civil-disobedience campaign scheduled to continue through September 3. A contingent of Vermonters plans to travel by bus from Burlington to Washington on August 28.
Shaw suggested that planners of the series of protests against exploitation of Canada's oil sands “may have been a little bit naïve” in telling the first group of demonstrators they would likely be released soon after getting busted. As it was, about 55 of those handcuffed and taken away in U.S. Park Police vans on Saturday wound up being held for 50 hours. Those with home addresses in the Washington area were let go soon after being arrested, Shaw said.
“There was a lot of aimless driving around” until the detainees were deposited in the Central D.C. Block at 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, Shaw recounted. At one point, he said, a dozen male demonstrators were confined in an 8-by-12-foot cell. The White House group was kept apart from the general jail population, Shaw noted.
He was one of three Vermonters picked up in the action intended to derail a project that campaigners say would have catastrophic effects on Earth's climate. Middlebury College scholar Bill McKibben and Vermont Law School professor Gus Speth were also arrested. Speth, 69, proved to be “a total brick” throughout his confinement, Shaw said.
None of those held were fined, nor did they even appear before a judge prior to being summarily released about 4 p.m. on Monday. “That was a little weird,” Shaw observed.
The campaign against the $7 billion, 1700-mile Keystone pipeline got an influential boost on Monday when the New York Times published an editorial urging Obama to reject the scheme.
Petropolis, a documentary about the project, is scheduled to be shown on Wednesday, August 24, at 7 p.m. in the Main Street Landing Film House in Burlington.