[UPDATE: There were 8 arrests today, two were charged with felonies and will see a judge in Suwannee County at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning. Supporters are invited to attend the hearing at the courthouse, located at 200 S Ohio Ave, Live Oak, FL 32064.]
Live Oak, Florida — A group of water protectors who are opposed to the Sabal Trail pipeline are currently locked under a truck carrying equipment for pipeline drilling near the Suwannee River State Park, on 24th Street, near SR 132, also known as Stagecoach Rd. This blockade of construction began at approximately 9:30 a.m, following a weekend of protests in which hundreds participated. There are currently law enforcement and emergency services vehicles on site.
Yesterday, a group calling itself Sacred Water Camp released a call-to-action video, that stated: “Join us TOMORROW on MLK Day for a peaceful demonstration to stand in solidarity with the earth, her rivers and her peoples. We will gather with prayerful intention and song to signify our dedication to #STOPSABALTRAIL by meeting near the entrance of the drill site adjacent to Suwannee River State Park.”
Two other individuals were also reportedly arrested this morning near the site of a pipeline compressor station, also under construction in Suwannee County. They are allegedly facing charges of felony trespassing on a construction site, which is a unique law to Florida providing construction sites with special protection. The Constitutionality of this law’s application to protest activities is questionable. Fourteen others were also arrested under this charge from a blockade in November of the Sante Fe River pipeline drilling site in Gilchrist County, FL, but the charges have not yet been formally filed in court.
The group opposing this pipeline with direct action is comprised of people from across Florida, and other states, who have been organizing against new pipeline construction, many of whom have been to North Dakota and Iowa to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Some of these activists are camped out at locations along the pipeline route in Suwannee and Gilchrist Counties in order to monitor construction violations and educate the public.
They say that violations of state and federal laws occurring during the pipeline’s construction warrant the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) revocation of the permit granted to Sabal Trail. This can be done at any time the DEP or the Governor’s cabinet decides to act on its obligation to protect the public from harm occurring by the pipeline’s construction and operation.
“This pipeline is a threat to all of our drinking water. Lives are at stake,” says Makeda Meeks an activist from Live Oak, Florida.
In particular, this pipeline threatens “environmental justice” (EJ) communities along its route, from Alabama across Florida, where 83% of the population impacted are reported to be low-income and/or communities of color. The environmental review process failed to assess these impacts.
Activists say this amounts to a form of environmental racism which is actually illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Environmental groups in Georgia and Florida have a pending lawsuit on these EJ issues and other public health concerns.
Another event took place this weekend, coinciding with Martin Luther King’s birthday, where a mass civil disobedience action aimed to stop construction at the same site where the protest is occurring today, which is where Sabal Trail is drilling under the Suwannee River.
Livestream video from the blockade: https://www.facebook.com/jeremy.petrie.391/videos/1059852100793237/
MLK Day Call to Action video: