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Police, Pepper Spray, & Prison: Texas Deputies Encounter Anti-Keystone Protest (Tree Sitters Included!)

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"I climbed this tree in honor of all the landowners who have been bullied mercilessly into signing easement contracts ...."

Police in Cherokee County, Texas, on Monday pepper-sprayed and arrested four anti-TransCanada Keystone pipeline protestors that had jammed their arms into land-clearing machinery at a construction site, according to KTRE 9.

The four were charged with criminal mischief and criminal trespass:

KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Sherriff’s deputies at another site arrested three tree sitters who had set up a “tree blockade” as part of a larger protest designed to show “solidarity with local land owners struggling to protect their water and land from TransCanada's toxic tar sands pipeline.”

"I climbed this tree in honor of all the landowners who have been bullied mercilessly into signing easement contracts and who were then silenced through fear by TransCanada's threat of endless litigation," said Lizzy Alvarado, a Stephen F. Austin State University film student (of course) in a press release.

"That's not what this country stands for in my mind, and if we don't take a stand here to secure our rights now, then it will keep happening to everyone," she added.

It is unclear what the tree sitters' charges were.

Yes, people still do this.

"Tar Sands Blockade stands with all communities affected by the Canadian tar sands," Ron Seifert, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson, said in a press release.

It continues:

From indigenous nations in Alberta, Canada to the besieged refinery neighborhoods of the American Gulf Coast where the tar sands will be refined, there's a groundswell of resistance demanding an end to toxic tar sands exploitation. Today's events simply mark the latest in our sustained, community-based civil disobedience campaign, and many more communities are destined to rise up to defend their homes from TransCanada's fraud, bullying, and reckless endangerment of their lives and fresh water.

So, naturally, the best way to deal with said fraud and bullying is to stick your arm into a machine and/or sit in a tree. Sounds like a plan.

Actually, it wasn’t such a good plan. Did we mention the pepper spray?

"These individuals are doing nothing more than sitting in an act of civil disobedience; something that is a rich, American tradition and police are oppressing them and violating their right to protest and using some of the most harsh and non-lethal weapons that they can," Seifert said.

Jordan Johnson, one of the protesters who got hit in the face with the stinging spray, says she’s disappointed in the deputies.

"I was born and raised here, and it's disappointing how our law enforcement is reacting, but I think our community should see this," Johnson said.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officials maintain they were just doing their job by protecting land and property.

"We don't have a dog in the fight as far as what's right or what's wrong," said Captain John Ranfield of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office. "You know we are here to protect property and people."

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

Click here to read the full report.

Front page photo source Tar Sands Blockade/CC BY 3.0.

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