Photo Essay: Tar Sands Pipeline Blockade at Keystone and TransCanada Headquarters

The Tar Sands Blockade (TSB) utilizes direct action tactics to take down what they believe is the biggest threat to all Americans and the environment: the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed pipeline would go through two Canadian provinces and seven states (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas) to the Mexican-US border. TSB has worked in solidarity with many people from the Alabama-Coushatta nation and other Texan citizens whose property rights are being threatened by the pipeline.

The blockaders recently organized a tree-sit, protecting trees that were to be cut down for pipeline construction, and have held actions in solidarity with Idle No More, a movement that was formed by multiple First Nations in both the US and Canada.

On Monday, January 7th the Tar Sands Blockade participated in a national day of action against the pipeline in which they occupied space in the lobbies of both the Keystone headquarters and TransCanada headquarters in Houston, Texas. The following photos are from that day of action.

In our first day visiting the blockade, a man from the Alabama-Coushatta nation held a rally on his front lawn in protest against the pipeline. This shot merely hints at the deforestation that continues on for miles.

Many hearts sank as they realized that the pipeline construction was no farther than 40 yards from his house. A few of the blockaders said that TransCanada seldom seeks the approval of First Nations before they decide to construct the pipeline through their lands.

The first site of action was the Keystone headquarters in which blockaders and other protesters dropped black balloons down an escalator to symbolize tar sands.

There was an attempt at occupying and locking down in the office of Keystone which was thwarted. As a result, all who came occupied the the front lobby of the building for a half an hour.

“There are no jobs on a dead planet. You should quit now.”

Protesters fell to their knees and symbolically begged the police to help them with their grievances. “Officer, help me! There are eco-terrorists upstairs! My life is in danger!”

After being kicked out by the police, all the activists congregated outside the office building to do some street theater.

The angry pipe-dragon knocked down people representing towns and forests.

Activists repeated the street theater inside TransCanada headquarters. The majority of the protesters fell on the ground and screamed violently. It caused a significant disruption in the everyday lives of corporate office workers in this building.

To conclude their day, protesters gathered outside the exit of the building’s parking garage to demonstrate their frustration to TransCanada and other corporate employees. To our surprise, this man in a BMW showed genuine support to the protest. Multiple flyers were handed out to folks driving by the demonstration.

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Jenn March is an activist photographer from Burlington, Vermont. She has been organizing in both state and national issues for over a year. She is currently photographing for Rising Tide VT, a Burlington-based environmental group. Jenn is presently working towards a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Photography at Burlington College.