8 arrests during MLK Day pipeline protests in Florida

Sabal Trail route

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Eight activists protesting construction of a natural gas pipeline were arrested in North Florida Monday; the Martin Luther King Day arrests mostly involved trespassing charges or failure to disperse.

WMNF interviewed Kevin Rodengen with Sacred Water Camp, a 24-hour per day camp in Live Oak to draw attention to opposition to the Sabal Trail pipeline.

“There were two, very brave, women who volunteered to lock themselves down to a construction vehicle, that was carrying pieces of the drill that is currently drilling underneath the Suwannee river in Suwanee county. These two brave Water Protectors, while they were still on the public access road were able to lock themselves to a vehicle and they do this for the sake of gaining media attention, of course, because it’s hard to actually attract people to this cause. It’s one of the methods that people use to attract attention.

“Of course, the police arrived and were ready to try and remove them but they were unable to for an extended amount of time and the rest of us sat there and witnessed and sat on the ground and sat in prayer. We had an amplifier where we took turns sharing statistics about pipeline incidences and some prayers and environmental concerns, so that this could be blasted out through social media and any media presence that was there.

“After probably about 2-hours of the two women being– that were locked under the truck, the police told everyone that in 15-minutes they needed us to move off of the road because some of us were sitting on the road. We said ‘Ok. Is it alright if we stand on the side of the road?’ It’s a state park that surrounds the road. They said ‘Sure. Yeah. That’s fine.” We have this on video, of course. After the 15-minutes they said ‘Ok, everybody move.’ We did what we were told. No one else wanted to be arrested. Everyone there was there to be in peace. Of course, the two brave women were the ones that were willing to be arrested that day. We did what we were told, but, as more and more time passed they were saying ‘You need to vacate the area.’ We would ask them ‘Why? Why do we need to move? We’re sitting here peacefully, we just want to know that our friends are gonna be ok.’ They had no answer for why. They just said ‘This is police orders. Please vacate the area.’ Again we would ask ‘Why?’ and anyone who did and didn’t move fast enough was arrested, just there. I believe 4 more people were arrested that way. We have that on film as well.

“Every time we asked why, they didn’t have an explanation, but, just asked that we continue moving and they formed a barricade. A line of police officers, maybe 20 of them, continuously pushed us from the area from where our friends were. It was a suppressing feeling, you know, where those of us were on public land and just wanted to bear witness. Some of us were arrested for doing that. I wasn’t arrested, just to be clear. I was there witnessing and because I had a camera, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t arrested for not obeying this push.

“This happened yesterday. The morning began with 20-25 or so people gathered right in front of the easement, standing on the public road and then as one of the trucks approached the worksite, that’s when the two women were brave enough to lock down to it. The rest of us sat there, watching. That was around 9:00, I believe. They asked us all to vacate the area, with no reason, at about 12:00.”

On the Earth First! Journal I saw — it said that there were the two felonies that were charged. It said there were a total of 8 arrests. Do you know what the actual number is?

“There were 8. Two others occurred at a different location. They weren’t a part of that particular scene. That was a trespass felony on the other location, as well.”

Rodengen says the names of the two women who locked themselves down before being arrested are Alexa Oropesa and Kaithleen Hernandez.

On Saturday several hundred people protested the pipeline but there were no arrests.

Here’s one video of the arrests posted on FB: