Update on Florida’s Sabal Trail gas pipeline arrests

Sabal Trail pipeline and DAPL protest
Liza Epstein protests the Sabal Trail pipeline. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (2016 Nov. 15).

Construction of the Sabal Trail oil pipeline continues in north Florida and central Florida; in the past week there have been two people arrested during north Florida protests of pipeline. Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson of the Sierra Club says on Saturday one activist was arrested in Gilchrist County and another near the Suwanee County city of Live Oak.

“The Sacred Water Camp, which is hosting a camp, for several water protectors. Water protectors came in from all over the state to go to Sacred Water Camp, this weekend. On Saturday they held a demonstration rally in front of the Sabal Trail stockyard, where they store equipment, in Live Oak. There were approximately, I’ve been told, between 40 and 50 people there.

“There was one arrest [that] managed to happen to a first-time water protector; somebody that drove over from Jacksonville to be a part of this continuous protest against Sabal Trail gas pipeline. He was very proud of his effort to come over and join with everybody to stand against a destructive path through Florida’s environment and through the Floridan aquifer. The man’s name is Josh Peebles and he came as a navy veteran and his sign was broadcasting that. As a veteran who stood for water protection. Police know he was a veteran, based on his sign.

“It was on a highway and parking was on either side of the highway, so, he walked across the highway to do whatever he was doing and the police arrested him for jaywalking. It was a misdemeanor charge and he was released and free to go back to Jacksonville. I think he paid a fee or fine or whatever have you.

“So, that was Suwannee County’s terrible moment to be arrested for standing for your water rights; to be a citizen being part of the process to exercise your civil rights.

“Gilchrist county, there was another situation–not a demonstration; not an action–at the south side of the Santa Fe river, where the drill site is located. There was a tour, in which I was participating in, called the Protect the Springs Caravan. We started out with 7 vehicles, some 3-4 people in each car. We drove from Gainesville to the corridor, which took quite a bit of time just to get to the corridor from Gainesville.

“When we approached the first site, which was the south side of the Santa Fe river, we discussed with the officers present whether or not we could park, because we had media with us. The intention was to teach people about the pipeline corridor–the Sabal Trail–and this was the first stop on our trip. The police told us we could not park on the side of the road and therefore we pushed on.

“We went to the Water Is Life Camp and got to see what was going on there, at the Santa Fe River. A camp that’s already ready to have people start camping. There are tents set up and everything for people to come and start staying here to help protect the water.

“So, we proceeded back down that same dirt road, where the police were and where the drill site was and we decided that the reporters would get out and walk and take photographs and the drivers would continue to drive since we could not park. We got through the corridor, the reporters got back in the car and the police stopped us as we were driving and wanted to see our license and registrations.

“One of the people that was with us, one of the attendees from the St. Pete area, KC Cavanaugh, was questioning the officer: ‘Why did she have to show him anything when she felt she was doing nothing wrong?’ and within a matter of seconds he was arresting her.

“So, we had two arrests this weekend, trying to stop Sabal Trail.

“We need a lot more help. We need a lot more people involved. We’re not stopping. We’re continuing the fight to stop Sabal Trail. We feel strongly this can happen. We need a lot of help doing it. We need to bring a lot more attention to what’s going on here and these stories will be told. Social media is already going viral with the stories.

“Water protectors are still going very strong, up here in north Florida and also, in Kissimmee, there’s also the Crystal Water Camp and they’re also proceeding with actions, too.

“So, if everybody wants to get involved in some way or another, there was a demonstration, this weekend, in Sarasota; another demonstration in Tampa; another demonstration in Kissimmee, all happening simultaneously on the 10th. So, there’s plenty of opportunity to get involved on some level or another.

“Arrest isn’t for everybody and it certainly wasn’t intentional, for either one of these people that got arrested, this weekend.”

On the Facebook page Dunnellon Needs to Know, an activist posted video described as a 150 year old oak tree in the path of pipeline construction being cut down yesterday.

Another Facebook post says that drilling of the pipeline route underneath a county road in the Gilchrist County town of Bell has been completed.

On January 15, Sabal Trail Resistance activists are planning what they’re calling a “Mass Civil Disobedience to Stop the Suwannee River Crossing” in Live Oak, Florida.


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