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98-Year-Old Activist Arrested Protesting Pipeline

Oil Company Claims They Can’t Avoid Destroying Indigenous Ceremonial Sites

Photo Credit: Sugar Shack Alliance

On June 24, local Massachusetts newspaper the Berkshire Eagle reported that a 98-year-old woman was one of seven Native activists arrested while protesting against a pipeline construction in Otis State Forest. The protest incited workers to halt construction and call the police.

Frances Crowe, the 98-year-old woman arrested, has been a lifelong activist. This is her third arrest since she turned 90, the newspaper reported. When asked how many times she has been arrested she responded, “not enough.” Crowe noted she protested when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. She joined peace activists, protested war taxes, and just a few years ago joined a protest to shut down a nuclear power plant. Her focus now is against fracking and oil pipelines.

The arrests Saturday were a third round of peaceful protests since the Kinder Morgan subsidiary began work last month to its $93 million Connecticut Expansion Project, a 13-mile natural gas storage loop, part of which will run through an existing pipeline corridor in Otis State Forest,” reported the Berkshire Eagle. “The project, which was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year, has stirred anger from local residents and activists for many reasons, and particularly because the company – after a court battle with the state – won an easement of roughly two miles of state-owned and protected land.” The expansion project would add over 100 miles of pipeline to an already existing pipeline that spans across Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts.

The easement granted by the state of Massachusetts resulted in trees being cut down in state protected land to make room for the pipeline earlier this year. MassLive reported in April 2017, “[T]hirty acres will be cut, crossing cold water streams and other water resources. A million gallons of water will be drawn from Spectacle Pond to hydrostatically test the pipeline, according to federal documents.”Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Ed Markey and Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA) signed a letter to the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission in April 2017 noting the commission doesn’t have the authority to approve pipeline construction as only two out of five seats on the commission were filled at the time of approval.

The Narragansett Native American tribe is also involved in trying to halt the pipeline construction, citing the pipeline company is in violation of the national historic preservation act by not protecting ceremonial stone areas along the pipeline’s path. The Berkshire Eagle reported on June 23, “Tennessee Gas has said it will work with a tribal monitor to protect the majority of the 74 identified landscapes. But the company can’t avoid them all, and said it would have to dismantle and restore one-third of these.” The company tried to argue to the tribe that it would remove the stones and replace them once construction was over, overtly negligent to the sacrilege and respect the tribe has for these sites.

Though the tribe is located in Rhode Island, they have territorial authority over land in the Berkshires due to the ceremonial stone landscapes there, used by tribal members who fled Rhode Island as refugees in the 1600’s. The area at the time was held by a Mohican tribe, which provided refuge to the Narragansett fleeing from King Phillip’s War.  This pipeline is one of many that have threatened Native American sites and land, with the most notable being the Dakota Access Pipeline that inspired the largest gathering of Native American tribes in more than 100 years. That pipeline’s construction desecrated sacred burial sites and currently threatens the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, despite a federal judge recently acknowledged that the environmental review for the pipeline’s construction was inadequate.

Written by Michael Sainato

Michael Sainato

Michael Sainato is a freelance journalist based in Gainesville, Florida. His writing has been featured in the Guardian, Miami Herald, Denver Post, The Hill, Observer, Truth-Out, and several other publications. Follow him on Twitter @msainat1.

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98-Year-Old Activist Arrested Protesting Pipeline