(Photo: Tar Sands Blockade)

A Tar Sands Blockader, Alejandro de la Torre, locked his body in a concrete capsule buried in the path of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline to stop a small family farm in East Texas from being destroyed by construction. He blocked demolition for at least six hours before police were able to break off a chunk of concrete is arm was in and arrest him.

Police confiscated cameras of Blockaders that were there to film for Torre’s safety. Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson Ramsey Sprague reported they wanted to keep cameras on him as long as possible but police intimidated observers and took the cameras.

Last week, TransCanada supervisors encouraged police to use torture tactics on protesters to stop their nonviolent direct action.

Sprague recounted the brutality, which was “astounding.” Shannon “Rain” Beebe and Benjamin Franklin locked themselves to TransCanada machinery to stop clear-cutting.  The police hung them with their arms behind their backs. They put pressure on their shoulder with their arms twisted. They pepper sprayed a tube connecting their arms. They twisted a tube cutting off circulation to their hands. (One protester is seeking medical attention for nerve damage.)

The police used tasers and planned to keep using tasers on Beebe and Franklin until they released. Cameras were supposed to be on the scene to film the action, but police were directed by TransCanada supervisors to run off those with cameras so they could commit brutality without people seeing video evidence on the evening news.

Additionally, Sprague told Firedoglake police put a screen up over Torre to block observers from seeing what police were doing as they tried to remove Torre.

“Having witnesses and documentation is utterly crucial to holding police accountable for their actions in the moment,” Sprague said. “That footage ending up on the nightly news is not something they want to deal with.”

Prior to this action, Sprague was arrested while taking pictures on the side of the road. His removal made it possible for police to twist the arm of a Blockader, Gary, who was locked to a wood chipper. They twisted his arm so much, Sprague said, that Gary thought his arm would break.

“These types of interactions are emblematic of the total disregard for human beings that has had all along its pipeline route,” Sprague stated. Everything between Alberta, Canada, and Houston, Texas, “all those communities,” are basically “being treated as collateral damage for them to meet their bottom line.”

The family farm the action took place at was threatened and forced under heavy duress to sign a contract with TransCanada so they could destroy build a pipeline on farm property.  The family opposed, but Sprague explained they were put in an impossible situation with no way out and their land would have been essentially stolen “at a discount” if they had not signed a contract.

Torre, who is twenty-eight years old, wrote in a post on the Tar Sands Blockade website that he was “willing to risk arrest” because he has a “certain amount of personal privilege that allows” him to take action.

…I don’t live near a Gulf refinery, or on land that’s at risk from a devastating tar sands spill, so I’m able to play a small part in an action that will really help people’s lives.  I’m here to stand up for people on the front lines because they’re being trampled to make way for corporate profits.

People in Port Arthur and my home in Houston are the ones who will be bearing the brunt of the toxic emissions from the tar sands refineries and they’re not going to see any of the economic benefits. This is just another example of how people of color and low-income folks are placed in “sacrifice zones” for our current economic system. A system ruled by fossil fuel industry greed and the trampling of the rights of people and our environment….

Torre recounted how he had seen the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and had come to take climate change seriously. His action was a “small thing” he could do with the hope that more people would follow his lead and struggle to “prevent runaway climate change.”

“We need to do the best we can to stop as much of this destruction as possible and demonstrate that there are social movements that will stand up to challenge it,” Torre declared. “We need to escalate our tactics to match the degree to which people are repressed and shut out of the decision making process.”