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Police Trained to Treat Keystone XL Protesters as 'Terrorists' (View TransCanada's PowerPoints)

Peaceful environmental protesters framed as criminals? Guess who’s scared of people power…
 
 
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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Rena Schild

 
 
 
 

It’s often difficult to gauge just how much fear activists instill in the powers that be. But on Wednesday, environmental activists protesting the Keystone XL pipeline saw firsthand how much TransCanada, the corporation in charge of the pipeline, is shaking in its boots.

Bold Nebraska, a grassroots landowner advocacy group, obtained TransCanada's presentation slides (below) via a Freedom of Information Act request to the Nebraska State Patrol. These slides revealed that TransCanada provided training to both federal and local police forces on how to crack down on environmental activists, even going so far as to train them to arrest the activists under anti-terrorism statutes.

Lauren Regan, legal coordinator for Tar Sands Blockade and executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center said, “This is clear evidence of the collusion between TransCanada and the federal government assisting local police to unlawfully monitor and harass political protestors.”

According to a 350.org press release the slides were presented last month in Nebraska, althought they date back to December, 2012. They specifically call out Occupy Pipe, Occupy Houston, STOP, Rainforest Action Network and Tar Sands Blockade in their presentations, which create an overall narrative that the activists are criminals and terrorists who need to be stopped.

One slide even has photos and descriptions of the “professional organizers” in a “most wanted” fashion:

Scott Parkin, an organizer at Rising Tide North America and campaigner at the Rainforest Action Network, who was listed on this slide, told AlterNet: “It’s pretty appalling. … They want to paint us as terrorists and make people scared of us.”

To the contrary, Parkin said, the activists—some of whom are grandparents— are not a bunch of crooks working underground. They are very upfront about their goals and work withlandowners. 

The slides describe the movement as “lead by professionals and organized.” They report that Tar Sands Blockade “appears to be well-funded” by “Large and small donation from individuals.” Under a slide titled, “Protestor Tactics,” TransCanada states the activists “suddenly show up, driving to the entrance of site. Could be five or fifteen or more in several vehicles.”

Under a slide titled “Protestor Motivations,” TransCanada implies that these activists are just protesting because that’s what they do. One bullet point simply quotes an activist saying: “I have been an activist for fifty years. I am seventy,” obviously side-stepping the activist’s true motivations for wanting to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

Further slides list the activists’ “criminal activity,” to which Tar Sands Blockade responded on their site: 

Although TransCanada’s presentation to authorities contains information about property destruction, sabotage, and booby traps, police in Texas and Oklahoma have never alleged, accused, or charged Tar Sands Blockade activists of any such behaviors. Since August 2012, Tar Sands Blockade has carried out dozens of successful nonviolent direct actions to physically halt construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas and Oklahoma. All of these acts, as well as every pipeline protest in Nebraska, have maintained strict commitments to nonviolence.

Another slide lists all of the laws the activists can supposedly be found violating, and a presentation suggests that the activists are planning “terrorist acts,” and can thus be charged via anti-terrorism statutes:

According to the presentation, there are eight signs of terrorism, including “surveillance,” “suspicious persons” and “terrorism funding.”

Ron Seifert, a spokesperson for Tar Sands Blockade who was pictured in the slideshow said: “Try as TransCanada might to slander Tar Sands Blockade and our growing grassroots movement, we know who the real criminals are. … The real criminals are those profiting from this deadly tar sands pipeline by endangering families living along the route and pumping illegal levels of air toxins into fence-line communities.”

In some ways, TransCanada’s presentations are a testament to the strength and significance of the activists' resistance. It’s evident that the corporate powers are frightened by the power of the people. After all, TransCanada saw these activists and their common, non-violent protest tactics as a threat. For instance, under slides titled “Incident History,” TransCanada lists “protest/demonstrations,” “photography,” “social media organization,” “banners, signs” and other tactics as threatening to their pipeline. And under a slide titled "Potential Security Concerns," TransCanada lists the various activism and media attention surrounding their projects:

“Most of the people I’ve talked to are very much like, ‘Right on!’ ‘This is a badge of honor’ or that sort of thing,” Parkin told AlterNet.

He added that he still feels troubled by the misinformation in TransCanada's presentations:

“I actually find it a little disturbing to know that if I went to Nebraska or around some of these sites or an activist camp or an event or something like that, that law enforcement can just come up and just grab me based on what they’ve seen in these slideshows.”

Fortunately, the grassroots resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline continues to grow. TransCanada is currently digging up defective segments of the new pipeline that failed inspections, and it has been reported that there are at least 40 “anomalies” along the 60-mile stretch of the line in East Texas.

Parkin said that ultimately the presentations reveal their grassroots movement is working.

 “I think it shows that it’s really effective, and it’s only getting bigger,” he said.

The following are TransCanada's presentations:

TransCanada Presentation on Security to Local Law Enforcement (Part 1 of 3)

 

TransCanada Presentation on Security to Local Law Enforcement (Part 2 of 3)

TransCanada Presentation on Security to Local Law Enforcement (Part 3 of 3)

TransCanada Potential Penal Code Charges for Illegal Protest Action Presentation

Nebraska Information Analysis Center meeting on Keystone XL pipeline

TransCanada presentation to FBI on pipeline projects

Alyssa Figueroa is an associate editor at AlterNet.