UPDATE Friday, 2PM: Fitzgerald is out of jail! He was charged with a Class B Misdemeanor, Criminal Trespassing.
UPDATE Friday, 11:00 AM: Fitzgerald spent the night in Coal County Jail. We’re hoping to get him out today; please show your support with a donation to his legal fund. Even five or ten dollars is a huge help!
UPDATE 9:30 AM Work is still stopped on the easement due to the large amount of police and emergency equipment needed for extraction! Show your support for Fitzgerald here!
UPDATE 9:10 AM: Firefighters have extracted Fitzgerald and he’s now in police custody. Please show your support with a generous donation to his legal fund.
UPDATE 8:49 AM: Another fire rescue vehicle on scene, officer just commanded “everyone not involved in emergency services, back off now!” and workers retreated slightly.
UPDATE 8:30 AM: Half a dozen work trucks, four police cars (3 sheriffs and 1 state trooper), four cops, four firefighters, 2 EMTs, one fire truck and a fire rescue truck on scene. Special fire department equipment truck just arrived; large group of officials crowded around Fitzgerald.
UPDATE 7:42 AM: Sheriff on scene.
BREAKING: Lula, OK—Thursday, April 25, 7:30AM –A protester with the group Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance has stopped construction of the Keystone XL pipeline by locking his arm into a concrete capsule buried directly in the pipeline’s proposed path. Fitzgerald Scott, 42, is the first African American to risk arrest while physically blockading TransCanada’s dangerous tar sands pipeline, and the second person to take action this week. On Monday a 61 year old man locked himself to a piece of construction equipment effectively shutting down another Oklahoma pipeline construction site. This week of action, called the “Red River Showdown,” is intended to protect the Red River, which marks the border between Oklahoma and Texas and is a major tributary of the Mississippi.
The site Scott has blockaded is a wetland area where crews are attempting to lay sections of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline directly into the marshy waters. An undetected pinhole leak at this location would cause cancer causing chemicals to mix directly into the local community water table.
Scott, who has a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Illinois, Chicago, is a longtime activist for social and environmental justice. While organizing against Keystone over the past five months, Scott has met many people struggling to protect their homes from TransCanada’s abuse of eminent domain.
“I am doing this for the people who don’t have the financial resources to protect themselves from a bully like TransCanada,” explained Scott. “Imagine how much worse it is for them – like the mostly African American neighborhood in Winona, TX, where protesters with the Tar Sands Blockade found holes in welds of the pipeline section that runs right behind a children’s playground, and neither TransCanada nor the government will do anything about it!”
As construction on the southern portion of Keystone XL nears two thirds completion, no regulators or politicians show any willingness to halt the project or even inspect those faulty welds. According to George Daniel, spokesperson for Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, “Scott’s action sends a clear message: because every other avenue has failed to stop this deadly project, we will blockade – all summer and on into the fall, if that’s what it takes.”
Today’s action comes just a few weeks after the devastating tar sands spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, which has left communities across Oklahoma and Texas terrified that they may be the next victims of reckless industry practices. Survivors of the spill in Mayflower have reported nausea, blurred vision, vomiting, and black outs caused by the same blend of raw tar and poisonous chemical solvents that will be transported through Keystone XL.