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Three arrested at TransCanada headquarters protest

Published: Friday, March 15, 2013

Updated: Friday, March 15, 2013 13:03

Three Tufts students were among 25 people arrested Monday for protesting the proposal for the Keystone XL Pipeline outside the Westborough, Mass. offices of TransCanada, the Calgary−based energy company behind the pipeline.

Out of around a dozen members of the student group Tufts Divest for Our Future who attended the protest, freshman William Pearl, sophomore Dan Jubelirer and junior Anna Lello−Smith were arrested and charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct.

The proposed pipeline would carry crude oil from Alberta, Canada, through the U.S. to Gulf−Coast refineries. Opponents of the project, which is awaiting approval by the Obama administration, say the pipeline’s construction would pose potentially massive environmental risks

According to Pearl, the plan for this week’s protest was developed over several weeks and brought 100 climate activists and environmental justice advocates to Westborough to stage a mock funeral symbolizing the deadly implication of letting the plan for the pipeline to move forward.

“The point of our action was to send a clear message to TransCanada that approving and building the Keystone Pipeline would lead us further down the path of irreversible climate change,” Jubelirer said.

Participants dressed in all black and carried a coffin inscribed with the words “Our Future,” Jubelirer said. A clergy member attended and delivered a eulogy to the future of the youth population while stressing the importance of caring for the Earth.

The group was unable to enter the TransCanada office directly, instead settling outside the glass doors inside the building. They engaged in a peaceful sit−in and handcuffed themselves together on the floor.

About 25 minutes into the action, two police officers arrived and called for backup after seeing the number of participants, according to Jubelirer.

Since the group practiced security culture — a method of keeping the knowledge of the organizing strategy within a few leaders — it was unlikely that the police were tipped off beforehand, Jubelirer said. Their prompt arrival was probably due to fact that the police station is five minutes down the road from the TransCanada office, he explained.

The police asked the group to leave the site, and those unwilling to risk arrest moved into the parking lot, Pearl said. The remaining 25 participants stayed for approximately another 40 minutes until the police removed their handcuffs and re−cuffed them for arrest.

“The cops were very relaxed about the whole thing,” Pearl said. “They knew it was a peaceful protest. They really saw we weren’t there to be belligerent.”

Those arrested were ushered in vans to the police station, where they remained in jail cells for between six to seven hours until their bail was posted, Pearl said. Bail was $40 per person and was provided by the organizers of the protest who waited for their release.

“I chose to stay because I felt that people have tried to get this project stopped through all the legitimate political channels for a very long time,” Jubelirer said. “I felt like I sort of had the privilege and opportunity to be more direct and put my body there, in the way.”

On Wednesday morning, those who had been arrested went to court, where an arraignment was reached between the defense attorney and the judge to drop the charges without fine, Jubelirer said.

He said that prior to the action, over $1,000 had been raised for anticipated legal fees. A media team had created a site called Funeral for Our Future where viewers could donate to the cause.

Because the fines were waived, the money will be donated to Tar Sands Blockade, a group dedicated to physically blocking the construction of the pipeline, according to Jubelirer. Arrests for physically blocking the pipeline construction often result in up to $5,000 bail per person.

Jubelirer said it was his first time getting arrested in the name of climatye activism. He said that if President Obama approves the pipeline, young people will continue to engage in civil disobedience.

Pearl stressed the importance of climate activism as part of a broader social and environmental justice problem that he has become increasingly passionate about within the last year.

“I think people should get involved,” he said. “This issue is going to escalate. It’s a group of people that are going to continue to take action for our future and for our climate.”

The action followed an earlier protest that was held at the TransCanada office on Jan. 7. That day there were eight arrests, including Tufts sophomore Emily Edgerly and junior Devyn Powell.

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