Monday, May 23, 2016

Civil Disobedience at the AIM Pipeline, Peekskill, NY ‪#‎StopSpectra‬ ‪#‎ResistAIM‬ ‪#‎WeSayNO‬ @SenSchumer and @SenGillibrand ‪#‎keepitintheground‬

 A pipeline explosion near Greensburg, Pa, April 2016.
Do we really want to risk seeing this next to a nuclear power plant?
Salem Township, Photo.
Remember Three Mile Island?  Can you imagine this happening on the Hudson?
I happen to believe an explosion from a pipeline near Indian Point might ignite a similar reaction.

Whose idea was it to put a high pressure pipeline next to a deteriorating pipeline?  That was Spectra Energy.  And the project is moving forward, despite strong opposition.

Last week, even Naomi Klein chimed in on the debate.

"Coming off the largest global mobilization against fossil fuels in history, there has never been a better moment to come together to reject the AIM pipeline -- a project that has united New Yorkers and people across the Northeast not only in defense of their communities, but also around their vision for a just, renewable future. Join the fight (and wear red) in Peekskill at 9am this Saturday -- and on Monday, take the fight to Senator Schumer's office."

JK and a few friends and I drove to the action in Peekskill. We talked about what we wanted, welcoming good spirits and righteous energy for the day’s big action.

When we arrived in Peekskill, the park police were negotiating with activists about where everyone could park.

“Funny how hard it was to get into the park and how easy it was for Spectra to get into the Park.,” noted Monica wryly as we arrived, welcoming everyone into the circle.  “We are here to do direct action.  Lets step up and take power and defend ourselves.  We are teaching them.  How many of you have protested Spectra before?” A bunch of us walked into the circle.  How many of you are thinking of getting arrested today?”  she asked.  Many more of us raised our hands.  People from all over the northeast have been fighting Spectra for years now.  “We live close to the pipeline,” explained Hunken. “The city of Peekskill is against this pipeline. We are fighting collusion with communities defending themselves.  Yesterday, our Senators decided to stand up and say stop this construction along with the Peekskill Mayor.  Yet Spectra has already said they will continue with the project.”

“Shut it down!  Shut it down!” everyone began to scream.

“Come show me why this is a good idea for the city of Peekskill?” asked the Mayor Frank Catalina.  He’s been against it from the beginning, he explained, before ducking off for a wedding.

Monica continued, “I’m gonna tell you the basics.  We are going to process down Welchire  Ave, take a left at Albany Post Road, to the destruction site and line up along there and get ready for the CD, blocking the entrance and exit of the city. Kids from the area are going to lead the procession.

She lead everyone through a know your rights training and we all filled out our forms.

“Non-violence  is an intension in people together, Non-violence to our chore.  We come forward in calm.  Breathe the fresh air, while its still here and remember our intension.   We are here to make a point and keep everyone safe.

I talked with a few of the potential arrestees including Jean Bergman, my friend from my first arrest and the old Housing Works, Fed Up Queers days of the late 1990’s.  JK, my Esperanza buddy was there as well as Shay, a seminary student at Union Theological Seminary.   He showed me his tattoo of St Paul.  We talked about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, involved with an assassination plot to kill Hitler.  This activist suggested we all have to live and be part of history, however we can. It’s our obligation.  We all have something to learn from each other, locating our narratives within larger stories of organizing.

I spoke with my father and law, Al Smith, who came up for the action.

And a few of us looked at the painting Seth Tobocman made about the story of the pipeline.

“We shall not be, we shall not be moved,” we sang as we walked out, people adding new verses as we walked.  “Pete would be with us, we shall not be moved,”  one man sang in homage to the folk icon who lobbied the governor not to support fracking in New York until his dying breath.

“We say no, we say no, we say no to the pipeline which scars our lands.”

“Get up, get down, leave fossil fuels in the ground.”

Some sang, “No AIM, No AIM, No AIM, No AIM, No AIM, No AIM, No AIM.”

Walking, Shay and I talked about why we were here.  “I’m here to build on Father Berrigan’s legacy,” Shay explained, “I am concerned about the climate as a justice issue, a poverty issue, and a Christian issue.”

Father Berrigan was with us.

“Ain’t no power, like the power of the sun, cause the power of the sun don’t stop,” people chanted.

“I’ve been reading Bonhoeffer,” Shay followed as we walked.  “He had a keep sense of his times, as we must. Spectra, we will stop you.”

Walking to the construction, scratch that, the destruction site, as Monica reminded us, I thought about our bike ride a few years ago to Indian Point with Times Up!  No more Fukishima on the Hudson, declared our banner.

My father and law, who lives in Garrison, walked with us, noting he was not aware that all the construction was right in the town of Peekskill, in the residential areas.

We talked about what would happen if the pipeline exploded like the Spectra pipeline did in Pittsburg earlier this year.

And we all lined up in front of the construction site, with bulldozers in the distance.

Jean Bergman and I talked about why we were here with Democracy Now 

“I didn’t even get to the part about my kids,” she lamented, as we stood blocking the entrance to the construction site. One of the timeless elements of civil disobedience is seeing who shows up and takes part, connecting our past histories of actions with current struggles. 

Jean Bergman with ACT UP and Housing Works, in an office takeover in the late 1990’s.

I got to throw in my soundbite. 

With both the Governor of New York, the two sitting US Senators, and the Mayor of Peekskill calling for an end to the project, we’re left to wonder who is calling the shots, the people or the corporations.  If they won’t stop, then its going to be up to the people to put our bodies on the machinery and stop this project.”

Police eventually came up to warn we would be arrested if we did not leave.  And we said we were staying.

“Arrest Spectra, not the people,” the crowd chanted.

A sixteen-year-old young woman tried to get arrested and the police turned her away. She lives near the pipeline and knows what is at stake.

“FERC don’t work,” the crowd chanted, following up on the point that this regulatory commission has to be more than a rubber stamp.

“Thank you,” the crowd screamed as we were being walked away.

The arrest was simple enough and we only ended up spending a few hours, not days, in the small jail cell, reading the graffiti, daydreaming, napping, and talking across jail cells.  The women sang.  Shay and I talked about Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr

“The affirmation of one's essential being in spite of desires and anxieties creates joy,” explained existential theologian Paul Tillich, as if reflecting on the experience of jail. Tillich was close to point out that god is almost unknowable. 

I’ve always been more in the Reinhold Niebuhr camp.   Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary,” argued Niebuhr, a theologian who ran for political office over and over again, as a socialist.

His point, of course, was germane to today. “The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world,” he argued, condemning fundamentalists on the left and right. “The tendency to claim God as an ally for our partisan value and ends is the source of all religious fanaticism,” he lamented, pointing toward a different kind of democratic engagement capable of solving problems. Democracy is finding proximate solutions to insoluble problems,” he counseled.  Democracy is about compromise and listening, explained Tillich.

So we talked and talked and soon enough, Shay and I were released along with the other 21 arrestees. 

Organizers with Sane Energy Project and the community welcomed us as heros.

Soon enough JK and Shay and few other friends were on our way back to the city. JK and I talked about continuing our adventures that we began at Esperanza community garden in the winter of 2000.  We recalled Brad Will, who was with us for that action and is no longer around, killed ten years ago in Mexico. 

She sang a song by Dana Lyons called, Drop Of Water.

There's a drop of water on the wall

 And the drop's about to fall

 And it falls into a trickle

 And the trickle's flowing down

 Down, down, to the ground

 And the moss begins to grow

 Watch, watch, watch watch the water flow

 And watch the current become a stream

 Busting through the seams

 Cracking thorough the concrete

 Bending down the steel

 In a raging that is real

 A tearing torrent you can feel

 Feel the thunder growing, thunder underground

 And in my heart the chain's falling apart

 The wildness in my soul

 And for once in life, for once in life I know

 I'm not alone.

 For the mountains make our bones

 With the oceans in our blood

 Our feet planted, planted firmly in the mud

 We are alive

 The burning embers in our eyes

 The tingling touch upon our skin

 And in the heat of passion we begin to understand

 That we are of this land

 That we are part of earth

 and when it's threatened we will fight for all we're worth.

 We watch the dam

 The dam come crashing down

 Water rushing to sea,

 And now the river

 Now the river

 Now the river

 Now is free

 The river is free.

As I write, activists are going up to Schumer’s office to hold his feet the fire, to push back against FERC.  If they won’t’ listen to the people, he needs to force the issue and not to take no for an answer.

Here are a few more shots of the day.

Patric drafted a press release about the action.

PRESS RELEASE from today's AMAZING action in Peekskill. Thanks so much to the 200 people who came today! And special thanks to the 21 brave defenders who were arrested for standing up against the fossil fuel industry. Together we will build another world.


Twenty One Peaceful Demonstrators Arrested for Stopping Construction on Spectra Energy’s Dangerous Methane Gas Pipeline

Peekskill, NY – Today, hundreds of people stood together to protect the community from the harmful impacts of Spectra’s AIM Pipeline, which if completed will carry high-pressure methane gas through residential communities and within 105 feet of critical Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant safety structures. Neighbors, elected officials including Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina and Councilwoman Kathy Talbot, families, environmental advocates, and concerned New Yorkers marched from Blue Mountain Reservation to a metering and regulating station where Spectra Energy is currently drilling under Route 9; they peacefully shut down construction activities by standing together and preventing Spectra vehicles from entering or leaving the site. Police arrested 21 people.

"We are stopping the Spectra AIM pipeline construction today, to make everyone aware of our environmental and safety concerns about this project, and to show that our voices and opinions matter,” said Tina Volz-Bongar, local Peekskill resident who rallied today against the pipeline. “Our community’s interests must take priority over the financial gain of fossil fuel companies. Peekskill is an environmental justice city, and nowhere has Spectra or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission properly addressed the environmental impacts of the pipeline."

This action comes after years of residents and grassroots groups actively engaging in the regulatory process, only to be ignored by FERC. The City of Boston and several grassroots groups have filed a lawsuit in Federal Court challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval of the project. In February, Governor Andrew Cuomo wrote to FERC asking for an immediate halt to construction while New York State conducted an independent risk assessment of siting the massive, high-pressure pipeline next to Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. FERC denied the Governor’s request, and claimed that a risk assessment by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) showed that the plant was safe. That risk assessment was the topic of a line of questioning by Congresswoman Nita Lowey at a congressional subcommittee meeting where she presented evidence that the assessment was faulty. There is now an internal investigation happening at the NRC regarding the approval. Despite the legal challenges and concerns of numerous high-ranking elected officials, construction has continued on the pipeline for months. Just yesterday, May 20th, Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand called for an immediate halt to construction. Spectra’s Director of Stakeholder Outreach, Marylee Hanley, responded that “Algonquin Gas Transmission resumed construction on the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project in April and will continue with its construction.”

The AIM pipeline poses risks at the local, state, and global levels. At the local level, it poses a serious risk to public health from air pollution, and because of its proximity to Indian Point nuclear plant, a rupture could trigger a nuclear accident. Just three weeks ago, a 24.5-foot section of Spectra’s “Texas Eastern” 30-inch gas pipeline exploded in Salem Township, PA, blowing open a 12-foot-deep, 1500-square-foot hole; it scorched 40 acres and critically injured a nearby resident. At the global level, the AIM Pipeline will also worsen climate change as it will involve transporting and releasing methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Furthermore, the pipeline is unnecessary – while Spectra Energy claims that the project will solve a supply shortage in New England, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey found through a study conducted by her office that Massachusetts could meet all of its reliability needs through increased efficiency and demand response technology.

Now that Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York Senator Charles Schumer, and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand have all called for an immediate halt to construction activities the pressure is on FERC to respond to the will of the people and their elected officials. On Monday, concerned New Yorkers will gather at Schumer’s Manhattan office and call on him to build broad Senate opposition, especially from Senators representing other states along the pipeline route, and to continue to pressure FERC to halt construction of the dangerous AIM Pipeline.


Erik McGregor
Erik McGregor took some wonderful photos of the day.

Minister Erik R. McGregor photos and caption.

"Neighbors, elected officials including Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina and Councilwoman Kathy Talbot, families, environmental advocates, and concerned New Yorkers marched from Blue Mountain Reservation to a metering and regulating station where Spectra Energy is currently drilling under Route 9; they peacefully shut down construction activities by standing together and preventing Spectra vehicles f...rom entering or leaving the site. Police arrested 21 people. A crowd of about 200 gathered on the sidewalk in a show of community strength and solidarity with those that chose to risk arrest blocking access to the site. City officials, neighbors and activists remained there until noon, keeping vigil for the health and safety of their community.  
— with Benjamin Heim Shepard in Peekskill, New York."
Actions were spreading and spreading across the country.

While hundreds came out today in Peekskill, hundreds more were doing the same at Spectra Energy's destruction site in West Roxbury, MA!
Hundreds march with Mothers Out Front 5/21 demonstration at the West Roxbury Pipeline --with over a dozen getting arrested. The Mothers Out Front drew the line! Thanks to all of you who came.

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