Four water protectors from the L’eau Est La Vie Camp in southern Louisiana were arrested on Tuesday while taking action against Energy Transfer Partners’ Bayou Bridge Pipeline. What began as a check on the status of construction turned into a multi-hour shutdown of work by the members of the camp.
Pipeline workers called the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office and tensions rose when their reinforcements arrived on site, eventually leading to apparent violations of human rights and the safety of those attacked by law enforcement.
Cherri Foytlin, L’eau Est La Vie Camp council member, was wrestled to the ground and held down by three deputies. “Please don’t hurt my arm,” Foytlin said only seconds before St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s deputies needlessly used pain compliance on her and she screamed in agony. While on the ground, Foytlin made a plea for people to come to the camp and protect the water.
Deputies also used pepper spray, had their batons out, and strangled Foytlin and “Patch,” another indigenous water protector. “I can’t breath!” Patch yelled while being restrained by St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s deputies.
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Foytlin, Patch, and Anna Beth Rowe each were held by deputies on $18,500 bail, while “Enid,” another protector, was held on $6,000 bail. Multiple fundraising requests by the camp for bail funds from the public eventually led to the release of all four. They’ve all been charged with felonies for trespassing on a “critical infrastructure” project.
Rowe was threatened with additional charges during booking. “The warden himself threatened me with an additional charge because I chose my right to remain silent.” Rowe told me.
Water protectors from the L’eau Est La Vie Camp argue that Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) does not have an easement agreement with Theda Wright, one of the property owners; therefore, the construction on Wright’s land to build the pipeline is illegal. As Earth First! Newswire reported from my press update, the water protectors are demanding “that ETP cease illegal construction of the pipeline, end the attacks on Water Protectors, and create and implement an effective evacuation route for those directly affected by their pipeline.” In particular, the water protectors seek assistance for the rural community of St. James, which was founded by freed slaves. St. James sits in what residents refer to as a “cancer alley” due to the high rates of cancer and other illnesses because of pipelines, refineries, and petrochemical plants.
Water protectors intend to stay indefinitely on Wright’s property, as Earth First! Newswire noted.
“I’ve been asked to protect this piece of land and I intend to do it,” said Foytlin at a construction shutdown on Labor Day. Law enforcement attempted to arrest Foytlin on Monday by dragging her down a hill of mud, but the outnumbered deputies lost as she was retrieved by camp members.
This week’s arrests came on the two-year anniversary of the vicious use of attack dogs and mace on the primarily indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock. The Bayou Bridge Pipeline is considered the terminus of the Dakota Access Pipeline carrying fracked crude oil to the Gulf of Mexico, where it will be shipped to foreign markets.
This event follows the arrest of four people last month, including journalist Karen Savage. Those arrested were charged under the new anti-protest law HB 727, with “felony interference with critical infrastructure, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison,” as Earth First! Newswire noted. Arrests also came in July at the site of an aerial blockade, where Sheriff’s deputies tased and arrested a water protector, later denying them basic necessities and medical care. Medical attention was also denied to Rowe while in custody after the September 4 arrest. During the required check-in with a jail nurse, Rowe told the nurse she needed access to her medications, but was denied access, which seems to be standard practice by the jailers. “I am not the only one to experience denied health care by St. Martin’s jail. I heard from other inmates that prisoners in withdrawal from addictive drugs as well as prescribed medications are ignored and left to suffer,” Rowe said.
The brutalities committed during these attacks are heavily aimed at indigenous women and those that read as women to the agents of the state. “I was shackled to the wall and they were not. It’s like a situation where they almost innately see us, people of color, as violent. We are treated like insurgents …. The worst part is we are treated like insurgents on our own land.” Foytlin told me after an arrest in July.
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