Louisiana arrests water protectors, journalists at Bayou Bridge Pipeline

Tree sitters set out to block construction of Bayou Bridge Pipeline (Photo by Bridge The Gulf)

Water protectors in Louisiana face obstacle, its illegal to protest pipelines, protectors could face felony - 20 years

Water protectors in Louisiana have been crusading against the tail end of the Dakota Access Pipeline / now called the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, which has traversed into the Atchafalaya Basin, which is the nation’s largest river swamp.

Water protectors has been putting out urgent calls on social media to protect and fight against the construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline which are only accessible by water. On August 10th an initial call for water protectors went out by the L’eau Est La Vie (Water is Life), group, a social media account dedicated to a camp that is “protecting our water and our way of life from the Bayou Bridge pipeline. #NoBayouBridge #StopETP”

At the site of the Atchafalaya Basin, Texas-based oil company Energy Transfer Partners is building the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, a 167-mile controversial pipeline of Louisiana that has faced fierce opposition from environmentalists and Indigenous activists.

This opposition to the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, however faces a fierce challenge from Louisiana lawmakers. On August 1st, Louisiana House Bill 727, went into effect declaring pipelines as a ‘critical infrastructure’ alongside water treatment plants, and electrical power grids, thus protesting against such infrastructure is a serious crime. Water protectors could be arrested receive felonies and serve up to 20 years in prison.

According to Truthout.org, three Water Protectors in kayaks were detained by Energy Transfer Partners security and later arrested.

“Not long after Louisiana’s anti-protest law went into effect, activists say three Water Protectors in the Atchafalaya Basin were “snatched” from their kayaks by private security guards working for Energy Transfer Partners, who held the activists on a pipeline easement until police arrived and arrested them. They became the first defendants charged with felonies under the anti-protest law.”

On Sunday, a Water Protector in a sky pod, (a tent that can be hoisted into the air) was cut down after attempting to block the construction. Though the Water Protectors say they were on private property and had permission to be on the site, four people were arrested, including a journalist.

The pipeline company last month said that anyone in a tree sit was trespassing against the company's right of way.

HAPPENING NOW! Water protectors launch skypod to stop ILLEGAL #bayoubridge pipeline work on private land without a landowner contract. Workers refusing to stop despite warnings that further work will cause skypod to fall, endangering life of water protector in pod. #nobayoubridge

Online publications such as The Intercept and Truthout.org are crying foul over the new legislation created by the American Legislative Exchange Council in the wake of protests at Standing Rock. Minnesota has also introduced legislation based on the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, which “codifies criminal penalties for a person convicted of willfully trespassing or entering property containing a critical infrastructure facility without permission by the owner of the property …”

In the interim, thousands of trees have been reduced to splinters in Louisiana. A video on YouTube shows the massive pathway of trees reduced to splinters by the pipeline:

According to the L'eau Est La Vie Camp Facebook page, only one large cypress remains at the construction site.

“The huge old-growth cypress shown at the beginning of this video is the only tree to be spared by ETP's illegal construction. We were blessed to have seen this forest before it was destroyed, but we are heartbroken that we did not have enough people here to save it.”

Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling

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