Non-Violent Activists are Risk Arrest in Otis State Forest

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Sandisfield, MA. May 2–  Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company hit another hurdle in their construction of the controversial $93 million Connecticut Expansion Project in Otis State Forest early Tuesday when over 50 Massachusetts residents blocked an access road to the company’s easement in Otis State Forest. At 7:00am today, a crowd of supporters holding signs and a banner that read “Save Our Forest Save Our Water. Save Our Earth. Unite. Resist. Protect”, began a protest march at Lower Spectacle Pond in Sandisfield, MA.  By 7:30am, nine activists had secured a chain across Access Road #3 of Otis State Forest, chanting “This is What Democracy Looks Like” and “We are Stopping Pipelines, Never Turning Back.”  At 8:00am, a caravan of 12 work vehicles, 2 State Police cruisers and 2 private security cars arrived.  At 8:15am, the people of the chain barricade said “No” , when asked by the State Troopers to let the private security personnel report for work on Access Road #3. This blockade is preventing the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s personnel and equipment from felling trees to prepare for construction of the 3.8 mile pipeline.

Currently, the activists are standing staunchly behind their chain barricade, as “Police Liaisons” negotiate with the State Police officials.  Ron Coler, one of the nine people on the blockade said, “We have every right to be here, as per the consent decree of the Massachusetts Attorney General, the public has full access to Otis State Forest! Another protestor, Vivienne said, “This land belongs to the people of Massachusetts and on behalf of all life on planet earth, we are proud to stand here!” Activists have pledged to continue their resistance to the pipeline until the project is stopped.

“We are committed to using all the non-violent tactics at our disposal in our ongoing opposition to the CT Expansion Project in Otis State Forest,” said activist Irvine Sobleman, of Northampton who participated in the action Tuesday.  “In the face of ongoing Climate Change, it is crystal clear that [our] responsibility [to protect the earth] requires us to reject all fossil fuel infrastructure construction, no matter how small or large the project may be.”

All participants of today’s action are members of a Massachusetts-based group of which Sobleman is a part, the <>Sugar Shack Alliance (SSA), a coalition of activists from around the state that is rooted in the principles of non-violence and originally formed in resistance to the Northeast Energy Direst Pipeline (NED) All members of the alliance have completed eight hours of comprehensive Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) training, are members of affinity groups, and agree on all decisions using a consensus-based model. In the group’s mission is a commitment to climate justice and non-violent disruption of the fossil fuel economy.

SSA has also formed a staging ground on private land abutting the state forest and the pipeline easement, setting up tents, information tables, and food for the activists in preparation for a long anti-pipeline campaign. “Stop! Take Notice,” reads a bright yellow banner hanging from a barn at the staging area, “This is Public Land. Say No to More Methane Pipelines. Save us from Global Warming! Gov. Leaders – Please Stand Strong Behind Article #97.” Representatives from Sugar Shack are present on an on-going basis at this staging area– #250 Cold Spring Road– to direct press to media liaisons and actions. All members of the Alliance wear pins to signal their membership in the organization, and media liaisons can be identified by their badges.

For more information, see: <> and follow the group’s on-going social media project #whyiprotect on <>Facebook and Twitter.

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