"You'll still be fighting the same fight."
Back here in Upstate New York, the story is much different. Although I am making many new friends (none of them my age) and finding a place in a new community of inspiring people, the tone is more focused and serious. While the Climate March is mostly an awareness-raising, mind-awakening crusade across the country, the fight to save Seneca Lake is exactly that; a fight. A battle. We are waging a weaponless war.
There are strategics and long planning meetings, reconnaissance missions and hours of research, media swarms and endless floods of emails, and the planning committee even fondly calls the citizens who have joined the resistance "troops." And yet, we are fighting this war in peace, because we know that using violence to bring about peace is one of the biggest paradoxical mistakes humanity is still consistently making.
The Finger Lakes community has not arrived at the decision to use civil disobedience lightly. We have used every other possible option to redress our grievances. We have contacted and met with our representatives, we have written countless letters to the editor, we have rallied, we have united the area's businesses against the project and we are pursuing the matter in the courts. Yet, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission blew past the overwhelming local opposition to the gas storage project and gave Crestwood the green light to store methane gas in unstable salt caverns beneath the western shore of Seneca Lake. Although FERC's decision is certainly angering, it doesn't necessarily come as a surprise. FERC is a federal agency that receives most of its funding from approving permits; hence, the more permits they approve the more money they get. This is a perfect example of our government valuing money over people and the planet.
The only thing we have left is our bodies. Although Crestwood claims in its biweekly reports to FERC that it has not yet started construction on the compressor station for the methane gas, they have been authorized since October 24th to begin. On October 23, 24 and 28, we blockaded the main entrance to Crestwood for most of the work day. Each day, they locked the gates and left us alone. On October 29, we knew we had to step up our game. Our group split up, and we blockaded both the main entrance and a smaller southern entrance at the same time. At first they shut both gates and made it look as though they were going to let us sit there again, but not long after a manager appeared asking if we would let a truck in.
"Tell me, how do you define 'blockade'?" Lindsay Speer, my fellow Seneca Lake Defender asked.
Our resolve and commitment to nonviolence would soon be tested.
At the main gate, I was playing the role of police liaison, peace keeper and videographer/photographer. The group at the south gate called to tell me they had just turned away the manager, and to expect him at my gate next. About ten minutes later, a freight truck from Amrex Chemical Company based in Binghamton pulled into the driveway, and the manager appeared at the gate and asked us to let the truck in. I clarified to him that our blockade was not going to let anything in or out.
"Well, I'm going to open the gates, then!" He declared in a tone that said, 'alright, you asked for it.' The negotiation phase was over; now, they were using intimidation.
When he opened the gates, the driver climbed into his truck and lurched forward, blaring his horn. The members of the blockade looked on fearlessly and didn't so much as flinch. The truck came to a rest just feet away from where they were standing, but the driver proceeded to rev the engine. I had never been so proud.
"The state troopers will remove you!" The driver declared, dutifully snapping open his flip phone.
From left to right: Colleen Boland, Sandra Steingraber and Rolan Micklem being taken into custody
From left to right: Nancy Kasper, Chuck Geisler and Dwain Wilder
When the government and elected leaders fail to serve and protect the people, breaking the law becomes a public service. Standing nose to nose with a freight truck becomes an act of bravery, not an act of foolery. When the people are ignored in a democratic system, we cannot sit back complacently and allow power-abusers to walk all over us.
We must rise.