Utah Environment
12:45 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

Tar Sands opponents utilize the concept of civil disobedience

Emily Stock was among those who are using civil disobedience to stand up for the environment.
Credit JON KOVASH

The recent demonstration and blocking of a road at the site of a proposed tar sands mine in the Book Cliffs area is part of a wave of direct actions across the country. What they have in common is the willingness of protestors to get arrested.

Southeast Utah has become the front lines in the battle against Tar Sands mining and the Keystone Pipeline. Last month, as in dozens of places across the country, activists in Utah conducted a direct action training camp, which culminated in the Book Cliffs action on July 29th. Among the ranks was Emily Stock, a Moab resident who has been working with a group called Canyon Country Rising Tide.

“Some really well known legal trainers came, as well as some indigenous folks from the Lakota, also from the Dineh tribe,” Stock said.

All protestors are trained in nonviolence, Stock said, which includes refraining from destruction of property.

“It’s taking it to a different level when you’re stopping bulldozers and mining equipment for sure, because it’s actually stopping work for the day,” Stock said. “The workers that we encountered on the 29th were sent home, and some of them were really supportive of the work we were doing, because they didn’t agree with it either.”

The direct action campaigns picked up steam back in February at the White House, when the 48 anti-tar sands protestors arrested included Michael Brune, the head of the Sierra Club, along with Bill McKibben, Julian Bond, Robert F Kennedy Jr. and Daryl Hannah. Stock said the prospect of tar sands in Utah has galvanized local opposition.

“While we are waiting for President Obama to say yes or no to the Keystone, they’re just building it. And while we’re waiting on this legal process to perhaps stop this mine in the Book Cliffs, they’re building the infrastructure, which means they are actually beginning the mining process,” Stock said. “This is a classic example of where public processes have failed or don’t exist. And therefore it demands that people take direct action, in order to convey their beliefs, their opinions and their health.”

This month dozens of mainstream environmental groups are planning another anti-tar sands action at the White House.

“As direct action becomes more mainstream, it’s much more likely that people to get on the train, and say I’m going to go the White House and protest this,” Stock said.

Up on the Book Cliffs, the demonstrators halted road construction for just one day, but Stock said the resistance will continue.

“The evening after the action, the US Oil Sands stock dropped 13 percent unexpectedly, and that was really exciting for all of us,” Stock said.