The Suwannee County Sheriff’s Department in Florida arrested eight water protectors yesterday (January 16) for engaging in civil disobedience—including two women who locked themselves to a construction truck—in opposition to a 515-mile natural gas pipeline set to run from Alabama into Florida.
Construction on the Sabal Trail Pipeline began in September 2016 and 60 percent of the pipe is in the ground, according to an email from media coordinator Andrea Grover. In Florida, where the natural gas will supply energy to Duke Energy of Florida and Florida Power and Light, opponents have been building a steady resistance since last August. They are concerned that the daily 1 billion cubic feet of gas running through the $3.2 billion pipeline could explode and/or contaminate water on any of its 372* crossings, including the Suwannee River.
Police arrested two women, Kaithleen Hernandez and Alexa-Rae Oropesa, who locked themselves to the truck on charges of “trespassing” and “resisting without violence." Their tactics follow similar actions that happened on the Dakota Access Pipeline battlefield in North Dakota. Four others were arrested on “trespassing after warning” charges. At a separate construction site roughly 15 miles away, officers arrested two other water protectors on charges of “felony trespass of construction site” and “resisting arrest without violence,” says Suwannee County Chief Deputy Ron Colvin.
As of publishing, Suwannee County Jail was processing the eight to release them, said Suwannee County Captain John Mills. Some had their first hearing yesterday while the rest went before a judge this morning (January 17), according to a Facebook post from the Sacred Water Camp, which has built a river encampment dedicated to stopping the pipeline.
Just a couple days earlier, on January 14, people came out by the hundreds to the Suwannee River State Park, reports local WCTV, in protest of the Sabal Trail’s construction. In November 2016, in Gilchrist County, the sheriff’s office arrested 14 people for taking direct action against the pipeline. One man locked himself to a water tanker truck, according to The Gainesville Sun.
Much of the energy in pipeline battles across the country—in Texas, Louisiana and Florida—draws from the #NoDAPL movement in Standing Rock, North Dakota. But tension continues there too: Morton County Sheriff’s officers arrested three people yesterday for allegedly trespassing on a construction site, reports Reuters. Water protectors alledged on social media that officers used tear gas on them.
* This post has been updated to clarify that the Sabal Trail Pipeline will have 372 water crossings, not 700. However, the Southeast Market Pipelines Project, of which Sabal Trail and two other projects are a part, has 699 water crossings. The remaining 328 crossings are for the Hillabee Expansion Project, which will help supply gas to the Sabal Trail Pipeline.