A protester with the group Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance stopped construction of the Keystone XL pipeline Thursday morning in Lula, Oklahoma, by locking his arm into a concrete capsule buried directly in the pipeline’s proposed path.
Fitzgerald Scott, 42, is the first African American to risk arrest while physically blockading TransCanada’s dangerous tar sands pipeline, and the second person to take action this week. On Monday a 61-year-old man locked himself to a piece of construction equipment effectively shutting down another Oklahoma pipeline construction site.
The week of action — called the “Red River Showdown” — is intended to protect the Red River, which marks the border between Oklahoma and Texas and is a major tributary of the Mississippi.
The site Scott blockaded is a wetland area where crews are attempting to lay sections of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline directly into the marshy waters. An undetected pinhole leak at this location would result in cancer causing chemicals to mix directly into the local community water table.
Scott, who has a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Illinois, Chicago, is a longtime activist for social and environmental justice. While organizing against Keystone over the past five months, Scott has met many people struggling to protect their homes from TransCanada’s abuse of eminent domain.
“I am doing this for the people who don’t have the financial resources to protect themselves from a bully like TransCanada,” explained Scott. “Imagine how much worse it is for them – like the mostly African American neighborhood in Winona, Texas, where protesters with the Tar Sands Blockade found holes in welds of the pipeline section that runs right behind a children’s playground, and neither TransCanada nor the government will do anything about it!”
As construction on the southern portion of Keystone XL nears two thirds completion, no regulators or politicians show any willingness to halt the project or even inspect those faulty welds. According to George Daniel, spokesperson for Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, “Scott’s action sends a clear message: because every other avenue has failed to stop this deadly project, we will blockade – all summer and on into the fall, if that’s what it takes.”