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Students tell their story after arrest at pipeline protest

Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 00:01

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Courtesy Oliver Porter

Two Tufts students were arrested during winter break in TransCanada’s Westborough, Mass. office for protesting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Two Tufts undergraduates were arrested along with six non−Tufts students on Jan. 7 for staging a sit−in protest in Westborough, Mass. against the Keystone XL pipeline construction.

Sophomore Emily Edgerly and junior Devyn Powell spoke to Professor of Chemistry Jonathan Kenny’s class “Telling the Climate Justice Story” at the class’s first meeting in Eaton Hall on Jan. 17 about their experiences protesting the pipeline.

Although the pipeline is currently under construction in Texas, as Powell and Edgerly explained, the company responsible for funding the pipeline, TransCanada, has an office in Westborough. According to Edgerly and Powell, the Keystone XL pipeline is particularly dangerous to the environment because it will carry tar sands oil, which produces considerably more carbon emissions than regular crude oil.

Powell and Edgerly showed the class a video recorded of the protest as they explained their actions of civil disobedience. Although their clothes appeared ordinary in the video, Powell explained that they were hiding large Kryptonite bike locks underneath their clothes as they entered the building.

“This is a peaceful protest against the Keystone XL pipeline, and we understand your company is not directly involved in the construction of the pipeline,” the protestors said after they arrived at the correct office space, according to Powell.

Following this declaration, the video showed the protestors immediately shackle their ankles to the furniture using their bike locks. The protestors then chained themselves to each other at the waist and adhered their hands together with super glue.

After arriving on the scene, law enforcement officials took three hours to detach one of the student’s ankle shackles.

“The rest of the seven of us could walk out in a single line,” Edgerly said. “They put us in the back of a paddy wagon and drove us to jail.”

“All of us students who have been working on this feel that this is the biggest environmental issue right now,” Edgerly said. “If this pipeline is to be passed, NASA climate scientist James Hansen said, ‘It is game over for climate change.’”

After the students’ arrest, the story of their protest attracted considerable media attention, Powell said.

“This by far got more media attention than anything else I’ve ever seen or been involved in,” she said. “We had reporters with cameras right there as we were walking out of the office snapping pictures of us.”

Powell explained that in the days following the protest, media from across Massachusetts continued to contact them and cover their story.

“I’d like to think we’ve done some small part to help elevate the discourse about climate change,” Powell said.

According to Edgerly, the eight protestors were willing to take risky action to voice their beliefs.

“We know that now is the time to act, if not far past the time to act, in order to stop climate catastrophe from affecting us,” Powell said. “We want to make it really clear that 2013 is the year that the climate movement is proving that we are taking this issue very seriously,” Powell said. “We’re not going to back down.”

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