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Activists bring pipeline protest to downtown Northampton

  • Jerica Tamarin Meditz talks about her participation in a weeklong action throughout western Massachusetts to protest the funders of a natural gas pipeline and the fossil fuel industry. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Micah Lott, participates in a weeklong resistance throughout western Massachusetts to protest organizations that fund the pipeline and the fossil fuel industry. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS



@srobertson
Wednesday, October 25, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — As part of a global, weeklong anti-pipeline push called “Divest the Globe,” a group of indigenous water protectors and local activists gathered outside the TD Bank downtown Tuesday afternoon to urge divestment from the bank and from fossil fuels.

“We are putting pressure on the banks financing these illegal pipelines,” said 31-year-old Jerica “Mountain Lion” Meditz, one of the group of approximately 20 protesters.

Referring to the Connecticut Expansion natural gas pipeline project through Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, she said, “The Kinder Morgan pipeline is not approved by the state, and it is being federally pushed through protected state forests, sacred sites of indigenous peoples, wetlands and vernal pools, and not following regulations and destroying the area.”

The action is part of a worldwide “Divest the Globe” movement organized after the Standing Rock protests in North Dakota. In western Massachusetts, members of the Sugar Shack Alliance partnered with the group We Are the Earth’s Resistance, identified by the acronym, “W.A.T.E.R.” to organize a week of direct action protests to recognize the movement.

“The Sugar Shack Alliance is a nonviolent direct action group opposing fossil fuel overbuild in our region and advocating for clean energy,” member Irvine Sobelman of Northampton said.

As a retired registered nurse, Sobelman describes herself as a “full-time lover of the Earth” and “organizer on behalf of the Earth and future generations.” She was working as the event’s “police liaison.”

“I interface between the police officers and the participants in the action,” Sobelman said. “It’s a part of classic, nonviolent direct action protests. Some actions have peacekeepers. As a police liaison, we don’t have specific training for it, but the skills required would be listening, patience, communication, and respect.”

According to Meditz, most members of the W.A.T.E.R activist group lived and met at the Oceti Sakowin Camp in North Dakota during the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“We are water protectors, and we are committed to stopping the pipeline,” she said.

In late July, 22 people were arrested protesting Kinder Morgan’s natural gas pipeline project in Sandisfield. Today, the project is approximately 95 percent complete. TD Bank is financing pipelines across the country, including the one through Otis State Forest and the Dakota Access Pipeline, said Meditz.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, began work on the $93 million Connecticut Expansion project last April. The new pipeline will upgrade an existing infrastructure to meet increased demand for natural gas transportation capacity in the Northeast, cutting through Albany County in New York, Berkshire and Hampden counties in Massachusetts, and Connecticut’s Hartford County.

The TD Bank demonstration marks the second day in a weeklong series of direct action protests across western Massachusetts. On Monday, the groups rallied outside the Southern Berkshire District Court in support of members there for their pre-trial hearings regarding trespassing charges on Otis State Forest.

On Wednesday, the groups will hold an EarthDance Action demonstration in the “designated protest area” on Cold Springs Road in the Otis State Forest. On Thursday they will hold an evening of song, story and prayer at the Greenfield All Souls Unitarian Church. They will protest in Agawam on Friday, pass out leaflets in Amherst on Saturday, and finish off Sunday with an interfaith prayer service at Spectacle Pond, again in the Otis State Forest, and a fundraising concert at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls.

“We are connected with a global movement to protect the earth,” Sobelman said.