Two members of the Keystone XL blockade who were physically blocking construction of the TransCanada pipeline were tortured yesterday at the request of TransCanada, according to Tarsands Blockade spokesperson Ramsey Sprague.
I spoke with Sprague today about the use of physical force against two protesters, Shannon Bebe and Benjamin Franklin, who handcuffed themselves to equipment being used to cut down trees so that the southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline could be built.
According to Sprague, Bebe and Franklin began their peaceful protest yesterday at 10:30 am, along with several observers. Sprague indicated that the group’s interactions with the police had been amicable and peaceful until TransCandada representatives showed up and encouraged the police to “run off” the observers.
Once there were no cameras in sight, Sprague says that TransCanada officials huddled with police. Shortly thereafter, the police commenced putting Bebe and Franklin in stress positions by bending their free arms backwards as far as possible and twisting their handcuffed hands backwards, and holding them there for 10 minutes.
Following that, they used the locking mechanisms of their handcuffs to twists their arms badly relative to the pipe the two had connected themselves to. The police then sprayed their arms with pepper spray, burning their skin.
Police then tasered both Bebe and Franklin. Franklin was tased a second time, and the two relented when police threatened to keep tasering them until they did so. Sprague said that because of a heart condition, one of the protesters feared for their life. Franklin described the pain as “immense and almost physically unbearable.”
The protest ended at approximately 3:30 pm.
According to the group, TransCanada employees heartily congratulated the police for torturing the protesters:
After the torture session ended, John, the senior TransCanada supervisor openly congratulated the aggressive Sheriffs Department Lieutenant on a “job well done.” To which the Lieutenant replied: “if this happens again we’ll just skip to using pepper spray and tasing in the first 10 minutes.”
TransCanada is a foreign company that has used the threat of eminent domain to coerce landowners into ceding their property to the pipeline. They have the support of both major party presidential candidates (h/t Tom Weiss):
“And today, I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.”
- President Obama, speaking about the southern leg of Keystone XL in Cushing, OK (March 22, 2012)
“If I’m President, we’ll build it if I have to build it myself.”
- Governor Romney, commenting on the Keystone XL pipeline in Pittsburgh, PA (May 4, 2012)
I fully endorse the sentiments of Bill McKibben, who was outraged at the use of tasers on people who are handcuffed:
There is no way to classify the use of such tactics against people who cannot defend themselves other than torture. Which the protesters indicate was carried out, by the police, and the specific request of TransCanada.
I do not have the words to fully express my admiration for what Franklin and Bebe were willing to do in order to stop this pipeline from being (literally) railroaded through the country, against the will of its citizens — especially those whose lands are being seized. They are true heroes and their courage and conviction are inspirational.
I informed the Tarsands Blockade group that Firedoglake would do anything within its power to help them. The good news: the 8 protesters who are living in the trees are still there blocking construction, and one more protester decided to join them after what TransCanada did to Franklin and Bebe, bringing their number to 9.
We are shipping a big box of supplies to them thanks to donations from FDL readers, which should make their lives easier. We used the expertise we gained equipping occupiers and sent them things like bivy covers to protect their sleeping bags from rain and “protester survival kits” with N95 particle masks to help protect them from pepper spray. When I spoke to Ramsey they were really heartened that the supplies would be there soon.
We are working with the Tarsands Blockade on an appropriate response to the outrageous behavior of TransCanada. In the mean time, if you’d like to donate to the supply fund, we will be working with the group to send them supplies as they need them.