Sunoco Faces Backlash After Repeated Pipeline Drilling Spills

from Unicorn Riot

West Whiteland Township, PA – Construction of the Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline faces several new obstacles as local authorities and the public respond to a series of drilling accidents.

Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners recently voluntarily stopped construction in certain areas where horizontal directional drilling for the pipeline had contaminated local water sources. After a meeting with township officials on Friday, July 14, the company announced that it was halting drilling operations in Chester County “indefinitely.” The horizontal directional drill (HDD) has been withdrawn from the site at Whiteland West Apartments where it had been active until last week, and has been sitting unused in the parking lot at St Peter and Paul Catholic Church and School.

It is unclear how long drilling in the area will stop, and if construction activities other than drilling are still taking place. Sunoco Logistics reportedly intends to blame Union Pipeline contractors, who had been operating the drill in Chester County, and replace them with workers from Michels Corporation, a pipeline contractor known for its work on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines.

Sunoco admitted puncturing an aquifer in Exton while drilling on June 22, and has offered bottled water and hotel vouchers to over a dozen residents whose water supply either disappeared or was tainted. The incident has been described as an “inadvertent return” – an accidental process in which a chemical slurry of underground drilling lubricants ends up flowing back towards the surface, contaminating any local waterways in its path.

Contaminated water from a tainted well in West Whiteland Township

Sunoco has paid to attach several homes to the public water system after their private wells were tainted with drilling slurry containing chemicals. However, problems with the aquifer feeding the public water system have also been reported since drilling began last month. Before residents started reporting contaminated water, the company had ignored requirements to notify downstream residents 72 hours before starting to drill.

Permitting paperwork from February of this year shows both Sunoco and Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection were aware that drilling was likely to damage the local aquifer. Despite this knowledge, Sunoco was given regulators’ blessing to drill anyway.

Earlier this month we heard from affected residents in Chester County about how pipeline drilling accidents are impacting their neighborhoods and their lives:

 [Video]

Water contamination from drilling has also been reported in other counties along the route of Mariner East 2. Blair County reported an ‘inadvertent return’ earlier this month. On Monday, July 17, another drilling spill was reported at a Mariner East 2 HDD site in Middletown, PA, in Delaware County:

On Monday July 17th, Middletown Township reported to residents that the township had been made aware of a bentonite spill at Sunoco’s HDD drilling site behind Tunbridge apartments. Middletown Township reported that they had been notified around 4:30pm, and that PADEP had also been notified and was responding to the event. It is reported that the spill reached Chester Creek. – Middletown Coalition for Community Safety

On Tuesday July 18, a Middletown resident posted a video of the drilling spill site to Facebook and noted how contractors’ efforts to contain the spill seemed inadequate.

Sunoco had previously spilled drilling slurry into Chester Creek in Delaware County earlier this year while drilling in Brookhaven on May 10. The Middletown Coalition for Community Safety is demanding that Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) revoke “prematurely issued water obstruction and encroachment permits” for Mariner East 2 as well as calling for a moratorium on all pipeline construction. State Senator Andy Dinniman, of West Whiteland Township, also alleges that Sunoco used loopholes in DEP regulations to ignore potential impacts private wells when applying for permits.

Additionally, Sunoco is facing legal action from the Chester County township of West Goshen, which seeks an injunction to immediately and indefinitely halt construction on Mariner East 2. West Goshen Township supervisors, who voted unanimously to petition Pennsylvania’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for an emergency order, allege that Sunoco began pipeline construction at an unapproved location without notifying them or asking for their permission. Township officials also say Sunoco pipeline crews ignored local construction and safety regulations, and have repeatedly blocked the driveway to the local fire department with their vehicles.

Several hundred miles west in the Susquehanna Valley in central Pennsylvania, tree-sits at Camp White Pine still block Mariner East 2’s route through Huntingdon County. The property is owned by the Gerhart family, who have refused to allow pipeline work crews onto their property despite repeated rulings against them by local courts on behalf on Sunoco. Huntingdon County judge Georce Zanic recently approved an injunction sought by Sunoco to allow police to arrest the Gerharts (and/or their supporters) on their own property at the pipeline company’s request.

One of several tree-sit pods at Camp White Pine, on the route of Mariner East 2 in Huntingdon, PA

With drilling paused in Chester County, the blockades at Camp White Pine still in place, and neighborhoods along the route self-organizing to respond to pipeline safety issues, hundreds of miles of Mariner East 2 are still incomplete. Nonetheless, Sunoco Logistics (‘an Energy Transfer company’) claims the pipeline will be operational sometime this year. The line would carry liquified gases such as ethane, butane, and propane from frack fields in Scio, Ohio across Pennsylvania to export terminals at Marcus Hook, where it would then be shipped across the Atlantic to a plastics company in Scotland.

Stay tuned to Unicorn Riot for more updates as we continue to report on this unfolding story.

Drilling for Mariner East 2 Pipeline Contaminates Drinking Water

from Unicorn Riot

West Whiteland Township, PA – Residents along the construction route of Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners’ Mariner East 2 pipeline are reporting contamination in their water after pipeline drilling accidents led to a chemical slurry compromising a well, which then tainted another well and several aquifers.

Over the last few weeks, neighborhoods in Chester County west of Philadelphia began experiencing stomach aches, and noticed their water was sometimes brown in color, contained sediment and bacteria, and smelled of chlorine.

When people started to notice problems with their water, neighbors connected through the Uwchlan Safety Coalition, a local community organization addressing ongoing health and safety issues posed by Mariner East 2. Sunoco offered many affected residents hotel vouchers and compensation for meals, and provided pallets of bottled water, while avoiding taking direct responsibility for the contamination. (Sunoco recently merged with Energy Transfer Partners, known for building the Dakota Access Pipeline.)

Contaminated water from a tainted well in West Whiteland Township

Continued drilling operations threaten to entirely destroy the safety of area wells, which would force those relying on well water to hook up to the public water system. While Sunoco has offered various forms of compensation for issues with private wells, those on the local public water system have also been reporting stomachaches after drinking water that smelled like chlorine.

Correspondence between Sunoco Logistics and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) shows that both Sunoco and DEP officials knew that drilling in certain geological formations in the Exton area could damage the local water table.

Before DEP eventually approved the permit under political pressure, permitting paperwork noted,

Karst area near Exton and the East Whiteland compressor branch present additional risks of IRs [inadvertent returns] during HDD…There are carbonate rocks, karst surface depressions; and identification of other public water supplies (groundwater or surface water) within one mile… Groundwater impacts from an inadvertent return cannot be directly visually observed from the surface. Any loss of circulation is the only indicator of drilling fluid migrating out of the borehole into the groundwater.

Sunoco representatives downplayed the risks from the drilling slurry (a mixture of chemicals and mud) in conversations with affected residents, comparing the bentonite clay to cat litter or the foundation used in makeup. Earlier this year, Energy Transfer Partners spilled two million gallons of drilling liquids into Ohio wetlands while constructing the Rover Pipeline, leading to a $430,000 fine and the temporary suspension of their horizontal directional drilling operations.

In West Whiteland, horizontal direction drill (HDD) operations were paused for a few days but resumed again on Saturday, July 8, despite objections by local lawmakers. Drilling is taking place on the grounds of the Whiteland West Apartments, a development with 377 housing units.

Contractors employed by Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners are currently operating an HDD hidden from public view using poles on sheets and wooden boards.

An open air waste pit for drilling waste is set up adjacent to the drill at the Whiteland West Apartments, a stone’s throw from some resident’s balconies.

Open air pit for storing Mariner East 2 drilling waste at Whiteland West Apartments

On July 3, a Uwchlan Township resident posted a picture showing how a new pipeline work site had taken up much of the playground area at her child’s daycare.

Photo challenge day #3 I don’t use Instagram but I downloaded it just to post this picture for our officials to see what is happening. I don’t have an easement on my house BUT this is the daycare my child goes to. Their beautiful green outdoor play space that once had tall trees to shade them is now about 3 feet away from a fence/wall where the pipeline is being built right on the other side!!! The trees are taken down and the dust and debris that are flying around can’t be good for them. Then when it’s all done if there should be a leak, I can’t even imagine that outcome! This is what people are living with. How can those in power allow corporations to do this? #pipeline #pipelinesafety #uwchlantwppa #uwchlanpa #chestercounty #chesco #pennsylvania #makeadifference #photooftheday #marinereast2 #change #trending #natgas #photoofthedaychallenge #frommypointofview #lionville #community #communityaction #6abcaction #cbsphilly Governor Tom Wolf, Senator Pat Toomey, U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Congressman Ryan Costello, PA State Rep. Becky Corbin, Commissioner Kathi Cozzone, John C. Rafferty, Jr. 6abc Action News, NBC10 Philadelphia, The Daily Local News, Philadelphia Inquirer, CBS Philly

A post shared by Tay Thieu (@tthieu33) on Jul 3, 2017 at 4:33pm PDT

Starting at frack fields in Scio, eastern Ohio, Mariner East 2 will carry highly explosive natural gas liquids such as propane, butane, and ethane across Pennsylvania to export terminals at Marcus Hook near Philadelphia.

These gases could be easily ignited by everyday appliances in the event of a leak. Many local schools, homes, and an assisted living facility are all well within the blast radius should leaked gases explode.

Mariner East 2 construction outside an elderly assisted living facility in Exton, PA

Glenwood Elementary in Media, PA has been conducting emergency evacuation drills with students to prepare for a potential pipeline leak explosion.

Quest Consultants, an independent firm hired by Middletown Township to evaluate the risks from a potential pipeline explosion, ran several detailed statistical simulations of potential leak scenarios. An analysis of data from previous spills estimates “that a leak will occur along the shared route once every 2.5 months.

On April 1, the Mariner East 1 pipeline, which Mariner East 2 will run parallel to, leaked 20 barrels of propane, ethane and butane in Berks County, PA.  An explosion from a leaking natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania last year set fire to forty acres of land, and left a 26-year old father covered in severe burns. Sunoco has one of the worst pipeline safety records of any company in the business.

The fracking and pipeline industries in Pennsylvania, assisted by Governor Tom Wolfe’s task force to accelerate pipeline construction, have been aggressively expanding new infrastructure throughout Chester County and many other areas of Pennsylvania.

Affected residents living in and along the path of Mariner East 2 across the state have been raising objections and resisting in various ways. Sunoco claims the natural gas liquids pipeline will be in operation this year; hundreds of miles of the route are still incomplete as of this writing.

Military intelligence contractor Tigerswan, which worked for Energy Transfer Partners behind the scenes to disrupt and discredit the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline, is monitoring opposition to Mariner East 2 in Pennsylvania. A consulting firm called Bravo Group boasts on its website about its contract for Sunoco Logistics to “neutralize opposition” to Mariner East 2 – a vague mission which presumably includes keeping tabs on everyone from blockaders at Camp White Pine to the various neighborhood-based Safety Coalitions formed in townships along the pipeline route.

J20 to G20 We Are Ungovernable

from Facebook

As we put our bodies in the way of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline, we look to the inspiration of those resisting the capitalist order in the face of brutal state violence.

211 people are each facing up to 75 years in prison for disrupting the inauguration of our fascist president and July 20th marks the beginning of a week of solidarity for the J20 defendants. Tens of thousands took to the streets of #Hamburg, #Germany this past week to block the #G20 and the smooth functioning of the global ruling class.

We did a banner drop from our tree sit in the path of the ME2 Pipeline in solidarity with our comrades. From the streets of Hamburg to the streets of DC, the rallying cry of the people is screaming “Shut It Down!”

Sign On to Statement of #Solidarity of #J20 Defendants & Follow: Defend J20 Resistance is a platform to support and amplify the voices of those who are working together to fight this case. http://defendj20resistance.org/

Camp White Pine Blockades Mariner East 2 Pipeline in Central Pennsylvania

from Unicorn Riot

Huntingdon, PA – After receiving all necessary permits from state regulatory agencies in February, Sunoco Logistics has been pushing ahead with construction of the Mariner 2 East Pipeline. Sunoco Logistics Partners and Energy Transfer Partners, announced the completion of their corporate merger on April 28.  President Donald Trump is an investor in the company.

Mariner 2 follows the route of Mariner 1, a repurposed oil pipeline which carries natural gas liquids (NGLs) to the east coast for export.  Mariner 2 would follow roughly the same route, stretching over three hundred miles across the state of Pennsylvania from frack fields in Scio, Ohio to bring propane, ethane and other fracking byproducts to Marcus Hook, a refinery and export hub just south of Philadelphia. While Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners promotes the pipeline with rhetoric about American energy independence, the natural gas liquids transported by Mariner East 2 are primarily for export to the European plastics industry.

Map of the Mariner East 2 construction route

Many counties and municipalities have contested the pipeline’s route through their communities, only to be overruled by state officials, who claim that their decision to classify the pipeline as a “public utility” means it is in the state’s interest to make sure the pipeline is completed, and that townships and municipalities may not act against the interests of the Commonwealth. The highly explosive nature of the natural gas liquids carried by the pipeline means that the various homes, businesses, and schools could be incinerated in a natural gas fireball in the event a leak occurs and then is ignited by a motor, cell phone, or many other everyday appliances.

Despite being an interstate pipeline, Mariner East 2 is not regulated by any federal agency. It is primarily regulated by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, an industry-friendly agency known for issuing permits despite not having enough staff or funding to properly oversee permitted projects.

The primary obstacle to the completion of the Mariner East 2 pipeline has been the Gerhart family in rural Huntingdon, whose property has been condemned for eminent domain. In March 2016 landowner Ellen Gerhart and several supporters of the Gerhart family were arrested by Pennsylvania State Police after people climbed trees to prevent them from being cut, in violation of a court order telling the Gerharts to not interfere with any pipeline work being done under her property.  (See video from that day here.)

All charges against those arrested on the Gerhart’s land in 2016 were eventually dismissed after 8 months of court proceedings.  The 80-year-old forest, now mostly clearcut by pipeline workers, was a treasured part of the Gerhart family’s home, as they had placed the land into forest stewardship with the hopes of preserving it for generations to come.

The combination of tree-sits, defensive measures, and supporters gathered on the Gerhart’s land has come to be known as ‘Camp White Pine’ – an homage to the numerous white pine trees which still populate the area.

 

A rare “Writ of Possession” was granted to Sunoco Logistics by a local judge, allowing them greater authority to enforce their eminent domain rights on the Gerhart’s property- including using law enforcement to remove landowners from their own property.  Ignoring orders from County Judge George Zanic made on behalf of the pipeline company, the Gerharts and their supporters have created what is said to be the most complex tree-sit operation on the east coast.

 

While construction crews have not yet encroached this year on the fortified tree-sits where Camp White Pine still stands, despite having been granted eminent domain for the area, construction on Mariner East 2 continues in surrounding areas.

On Monday May 22, pipeline work crews arrived without notice on Ralph Blume’s farm near Newville, PA and began cutting trees.  The Cumberland County Sheriff was there to intercept Mr. Blume when he came to confront workers who he said promised him they would give advance notice before working on his property, which they did not.  The sheriff told Mr. Blume he would not arrest him, which Resist Sunoco PA speculated was “because Sunoco didn’t want the bad publicity that would come with arresting a 77 year-old man.”

 

Energy Transfer Partners has already had accidents and spills while constructing the Mariner East 2 Pipeline in Pennsylvania.  On May 3, a large slurry of drilling fluid spilled into Chester Creek as drilling for Mariner East 2 was being done in Delaware County, PA. Work crews placed sandbags around the slurry, which was an ineffective means of containing the spill as the water simply rose above the sandbags and spread the slurry downstream.  The drilling fluid contains bentonite clay, which is known to be deadly to aquatic wildlife.  The original Mariner East 1 pipeline also leaked 20 barrels of ethane and and propane on in Berks County on April 1.

On June 29, Huntingdon County George Zanic issued a new injunction requested by Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners authorizing the arrest of anyone on the Gerhart property who impedes pipeline construction.  Neither Judge Zanic or any employee of his court informed the Gerharts of the injunction made against them on behalf of the company, they only heard about it after being questioned by news reporters.

The new injunction means pipeline workers, accompanied by police who may target and arrest landowners on their own property, could arrive on the Gerhart’s land any day now. When we asked Elise Gerhart what she expected, she told us,

I expect them to come with brute force. That’s how they’ve done it in the past, that’s what we saw at Standing Rock… that’s the way that they do it. If they can’t trick you, they bully you. If they can’t bully you, then they attack you. So, that is what I expect…they want to build this pipeline and we’ve seen, when Energy Transfer Partners wants to build a pipeline, they’re willing to physically hurt people to get them out of the way. And we’ve seen how the police are complicit with that. At this point I am expecting to go to jail, potentially for an extended period of time, I’ve been trying to prepare for that. All I can say is that sometimes you just have to do what’s right. You have to try and protect yourself from harm, and we’re just trying to do everything we can to do that.         -Elise Gerhart

An investigation by The Intercept into the private security firm Tigerswan, now known for their illegal operations in North Dakota to protect the Dakota Access Pipeline, shows the mercenary contractor is also monitoring opposition to Mariner East 2. Tigerswan advisory board member James Marks was also found to have written an editorial for PennLive.com attacking opponents of Mariner East 2, without disclosing his personal connections to a firm employed to harass pipeline opponents.

lawsuit by Clean Air Council, set for trial this December in Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, could possibly stop the pipeline based on issues with its permitting and use of eminent domain.  In the meantime, construction continues, and local authorities (the Huntingdon County Sheriff and Pennsylvania State Police) have historically been quick to respond to the pipeline company’s requests to repress their opposition. The Huntingdon County Sheriff has not yet responded to our request for comment.

We spoke at length earlier this year with Elise Gerhart about her family’s fight against Mariner East 2 on their property, the direct action tree sits at Camp White Pine, and how the pipeline fight in Huntingdon connects to broader struggles across the state and the country.  Read or listen to the interview here.

“We’ve Got No Choice”: Interview with Elise Gerhart of Camp White Pine

from Unicorn Riot

Huntingdon County, PA – In May, Unicorn Riot visited Camp White Pine, a direct action encampment on the Gerhart family’s property in the hills of Huntingdon County, PA. Several tree-sits currently sit on the easement for the Mariner East 2 pipeline, where Sunoco has claimed eminent domain to build the pipeline against the property owner’s consent. Read our report here.

We spoke with Elise Gerhart for almost two hours about the history of her family’s property, their struggle against encroachment by Sunoco, and what she expects in the fight ahead. We also discussed regulatory corruption in Pennsylvania, law enforcement responses to pipeline resistance, and the implications for climate activism in the post-Standing Rock era.

Listen to the interview below (1 hr 38 mins) or click here to download

[Interview transcript below the cut]

Urgent Bail and Legal Funds Need for Camp White Pine

From It’s Going Down

Donate Here

For over a year now, the Gerhart family and a huge number of dedicated volunteers have been working to stop the Mariner East 2 pipeline from being built, putting too many miles of beautiful Pennsylvania forests, streams, and wetlands at risk.

As a last resort, volunteers have taken to the trees and used direct action to stop this pipeline from being built. Arrests while non-violently defending this land are probable, and the right of the Gerharts to maintain their property have already been violated.

Pennsylvania judges have a nasty habit of imposing harsh and unreasonable bail and legal costs on people arrest for environmental direct action. Please support these brave volunteers by donating to their bail and legal fund. We already have a lawyer in place who is ready to defend any arrested individuals, but there are many costs associated with legal defense. Ever dollar helps!

Fake Event Mobilizes far-Right at Gettysburg; Militia Member Shoots Himself in Leg

From It’s Going Down

In the last two weeks, Alt-Right trolls have attempted to replay the events in Houston, Texas in June, where using over the top threats from fake antifa groups on social media, they galvanized a ‘counter-protest’ from the militia movement.

Moreover, it turned out that the people behind the trolling where also raking in thousands of dollars off of crowdfunding for the ‘counter-demonstration’ which drew several hundred and led to infighting between militia members and neo-Nazis. Seems like the Right has a business plan! Make a fake antifa group, make over the top threats, and then crowd fund money off of people that want to protest it.

This time around, trolls using the page ‘Harrisburg Antifa’ alleged that antifascists would burn flags and urinate on the graves of Confederate soldiers. These outright lies were then picked up by the ‘journalists’ at Fox News and distributed as actual truth. This connection between Alt-Right trolls and Fox News is not new; just last week Fox reprinted an article written by a member of the Alt-Right who wrote a hit piece about IGD at HeatSt.com.

Interestingly enough however, in the lead up to the protest, Navy Jack, a mover and shaker within the far-Right Oath Keeper militia, called out the event as total make-believe in a tweet (see image on the top-right), which has since been deleted. Navy Jack also included the photos of the two people he believed were behind the fake event and called it #FakeNews.

Other members of the far-Right, such as Joe Biggs, who recently left InfoWars because of the #Pizzagate conspiracy, have stated publicly that the rise of such fake antifa accounts have hurt the far-Right who continues to take them seriously.

In an interview with USA Today, Central PA Antifa, who IGD interviewed last year, also rightfully called out the event as a complete and total fabrication:

Central PA Antifa, based in the greater Harrisburg area, is planning to participate in an anti-Trump demonstration in Philadelphia on Saturday, according to the email.

The email claimed the rumors about the Gettysburg protest stemmed from a fake Facebook page called “Harrisburg Antifa.”

“This page is not run by antifascists but by alt-right trolls attempting to discredit antifa, create confusion, and attempt to stir violence,” the email stated.

Furthermore, Antifa took exception to the allegation that they would be desecrating graves, especially in Gettysburg, “a site of great historical importance in the struggle of oppression,” the email said.

“That battle was a turning point in the war that eventually lead to the freeing of millions of slaves,” Central PA Antifa said. “The Confederacy and their ideology were dealt a resounding defeat at that battle, as fascism itself will one day be defeated by the will of all people to be free from oppression.”

The BBC also ironically pointed out:

There’s a problem: although there is a cemetery at Gettysburg, no Confederate graves at the site are marked by stones.

Alt-Lite trolls, general adult failures at life, and conspiracy theorists like Cassandra Fairbanks and Jack Posobiec did flip flops with the story. First, they promoted it as fact and then when it became clear it was a fake, they took to laughing at the mainstream media for picking up the story after they helped to get it off the ground. Hilariously though, it was Fox News that picked it up and ran with it after hearing about it from the grassroots far-Right, even as some local Fox affiliates backpedaled on the story.

But regardless of the lies, militia members and the far-Right still showed up to Gettysburg to protest the hoax created by Alt-Right trolls. During their ‘counter-rally’ however, a young militia member apparently shot themselves in the leg. 

According to One People’s Project:

The rumor that antifa were coming to Gettysburg National Military Park to desecrate Confederate monuments there turned out to be false, but that did not stop a group of militia members from coming out, standing guard and shooting themselves in the foot – or literally in their left thigh.

According to Pennlive, a 20-year-old “patriot” accidentally triggered the revolver he brought to the park, which was inside a leg holster, when he temporarily rested the bottom of his flag pole against the holster. Park police who were nearby when the shooting took place quickly applied a tourniquet, possibly saving his life.

The accidental discharge happened near four designated fenced areas for demonstrators. Many of the ‘patriots’, did not go into those areas immediately reportedly because their permit was suspended because of a brief rain, but instead marched around the perimeter. After the rain cleared, they were allowed in.

Later, as police were trying to unload the revolver, it went off a second time while visitors were nearby. Police say the gun was “bad” and they had a hard time getting the rounds out of the chamber. After they forced all of the rounds out of the revolver, they secured the gun.

As Alt-Right trolls peddle lies, mainstream and corporate media like Fox News feeds off of the manufactured frenzy, which in turn leads to far-Right militia groups mobilizing to ‘fight’ these fake threats. This cycle has become increasingly clear. People like Cassandra Fairbanks and Jack Posobiec lose credibility when independent investigative journalism expose the facade. It is important that our movements continue to support, fund and defend such liberatory efforts.

Moreover, it was the far-Right, not anarchists and antifascists, which called for violence in the lead up to the demonstration and in the end, shot themselves with a gun and put people in the general area of Gettysburg in danger. This is the kind of reckless behavior they accuse our movement of engaging in all of the time, yet it is the far-Right which is creating a climate of violence, fear, and threats of bodily harm.

The far-Right has a symbiotic relationship with the State, the mass media, and is built on a foundation of dis-information and relationships of violence. In an attempt to get ratings they sow rotten seeds amongst the public, crowdfund off each other and peddle their rhetoric to anyone simple enough to be played. The joke is on them this time. Reap what you sow and maybe you’ll just end up shooting yourself in the leg.


 

Harrisburg, PA: Reportback and Analysis of June 10th Counter-Demo

from It’s Going Down

On June 10th, ACT for America held anti-Muslim rallies across the country. They were assisted by American Vanguard, a white-supremacist fascist group, and the Oathkeepers, a hyper-masculine organization of former military and police officers. One of the rallies was held in Harrisburg, PA, where they were joined by the ultra-racist Keystone Skins. In an effort to create a strong counter-presence a call was put out to activists in the region to join Harrisburg comrades in shutting them down. We were among many who answered.

As anarchists, we firmly believe in self-criticism and learning lessons from every action. This is our attempt to do so.

Leading up to the day of the action, we had concerns about what we perceived as some organizers’ peace-policing discussions of militant tactics. We did not gain a complete understanding of their concerns, and felt that ours were not fully heard. Arranging a spokes council well in advance would have prevented much of the resulting tension in both preparation and execution, and provided clarity in terms of goals, contingency plans, support for autonomous actions, diversity of tactics, etc.

A spokes council, when properly implemented, is distinguishable from representative councils: the spokes (individuals comprising the spokes council) constantly rotate, must closely follow the affinity groups’ mandates, can be immediately recalled, and any decisions are non-binding. This provides a method for organizing the decision-making process of a large group while preserving the autonomy of all involved. A spokes council can help level the field of communication, so that everyone’s voice is heard, most importantly those of folks who are too often silenced, i.e.: women, people of color, lgbtqia+.

Decisions can be made using consensus, and agreements and understandings can be efficiently communicated from each crew to the spokes council and vice versa. Groups voluntarily opt in or out, and have time to speak amongst themselves to determine the nature of their relationship to the spokes council. Moreover, a spokes council provides the opportunity for people from different crews to establish personal connections, and potentially boost confidence in the strangers they will stand with as comrades on the day of the action.

For the action in Harrisburg, the spokes council would have been talking on a regular basis, met the night before and morning of, and been ready to meet quickly when necessary during the action itself. Instead, there was an attempt to make critical decisions among 40-60 people. While full participation in decision-making can function on the ground, with the lack of clarity between groups leading up to the action and with cops and fash looking to pick a fight, it proved ineffective.

The Action

Our crew plus one person from Harrisburg arrived at the meet-up spot at the designated time already bloced up. It took the rest of the day’s main organizers and crews over an hour to arrive, during which time we were scouted by both fash and cops. This put us at a severe disadvantage and deflated the morale of those who had waited around for so long.

Once more people arrived, a decision was made to move the group to a location that was not clearly communicated and to which several individuals and crews had severe misgivings, leading to further lack of confidence in some of the local organizers. A few crews even de-bloced and considered leaving town, and then re-bloced once we decided to take to the streets. That said, at least one of the local organizers was attentive and responsive to outside concerns, and did their best to relay messages to the other local organizers. We had established a rapport with them weeks prior, vibed well, and felt comfortable looking to them in times of critical decision-making, which speaks to the need for good inter-regional communication before an action. Unfortunately, other organizers appeared to drown them out and dismiss them, which not only hampered confidence but, in our eyes, actually led to harmful chaos.

Upon arrival at the capitol, it was clear we had arrived well after the fash and pigs, whose occupation of the capitol steps was reinforced by armed paramilitary, police barricades and mounties (pigs on horseback). For our movement to succeed we must constantly evaluate the situation on the ground and ensure we dictate the terms of success. The goal was immediately changed from stopping the march (which was clearly not going to happen) to preventing fash from approaching the rallying point and drowning out their chants. Crews continued to arrive, bringing noisemakers and other supplies. Fash continued to arrive, too, albeit in meager numbers, and when some people within the bloc attempted to hold the line as they approached, others did not, and they were able to break through easily, assisted by the pigs, who came armed with rubber bullets, smoke grenades launchers, and zip-ties.

Around this point, some crews left and de-bloced. While some returned, others did not. Organizers had continuously called for the bloc to “tighten up” so we could somehow reach consensus as a full bloc. This was clearly not working, and some of us recommended the creation of a spokes. An ad-hoc spokes was assembled, in which not all crews were represented, some individuals attempted to function as an actual spokes, a few attempted to dominate the conversation, and others seemed unsure of how to operate within that environment.

Amidst this spokes reevaluation, a peace-police antagonizer came into the bloc and began yelling incoherent nonsense. Rather than removing him, pigs arrested a person of color who was standing close by, and the bloc did nothing to stop it. We attribute this arrest to disorganization and miscommunication, and need to figure out how to avoid situations like this in the future: how to neutralize rogue antagonizers while protecting and maintaining the bloc.

Eventually, the spokes decided we should leave the location and begin a march as a way of coopting the fash’s plan and create an anti-racist march.

The march was immediately pursued by mounties, police on foot, and several police vehicles. In an attempt to outpace the pigs, the “leaders” of the march kept a fast pace, which was dangerous for several reasons. First and foremost, it was ableist—some who may have wanted to participate couldn’t. Second, it risked spreading the bloc thin. Luckily several individuals ensured this did not happen. We began to feel much more confident, forming lines in the street and pushing through aggressive mounties who tried to penetrate, reroute, and divide the bloc. We dictated the terms of the march and cut off police interference. A local civilian joined the march and suggested a densely populated public destination, and we marched there effectively.

Once we’d passed this location, the mounties became much more aggressive, charging the bloc in an effort to remove us from the street. Shit was going south. As we weighed separating from the bloc and some of us even began to so do, pigs started to make arrests and we were cut off.

After de-blocing, regrouping, and meeting up with others, we observed several roaming bands of Proud Boys (who appeared young and weak) walking the streets looking for members of Antifa to fight. Groups of pigs did the same, clearly in coordination with fash and also in pursuit of Antifa, stashed gear or perhaps even cars that looked out of place. Nonetheless, several members of different Antifa crews beat the shit out of a few Proud Boys with their own weapons (they later complained about their wounds, using social media to request safe spaces to spout their hatred).

Lessons

1) There should always be a secure and comprehensive scouting plan before any action, but especially a large-scale action. This includes leading up to and day of. We need to ensure that we have a complete understanding of the terrain: potential locations where we can demonstrate our power, choke points, escape routes, etc. This must be done carefully and thoroughly.

2) The host crew and folks coming from abroad must be clear about where they stand, what they are willing to do, goals, and contingency plans. Clear communication is key always, and every effort must be made to listen to anyone who expresses concerns during planning. This is crucial when working with others as it ensures that people know they are being heard, and helps everyone to work as a more cohesive unit.

3) As a movement, we need to be more creative with our tactics. The fash and pigs have become accustomed to bloc strategies in these types of scenarios. In order to win we need to think about other ways to take them on.

Conclusion

We were able to enact an effective noise-making counter-demonstration, drowning out the fash’s pathetic chants and renditions of “God Bless America,” or whatever. We were then able to take the streets, creating decent optics by staying tight, chanting in unison, and maintaining the bloc through an extensive route in downtown Harrisburg. And, after the bloc dissipated, folks were able to de-bloc and make some fash regret leaving their keyboards. All of these elements of the action could’ve been improved with better communication and planning, and in the future, as we make a more concerted effort to do so, we must take into consideration lessons from the June 10th action in Harrisburg.

P.S.: Remember, horses are our friends, and even though they can be scary they don’t want to be involved in our oppression any more than we do. They are frightened in those moments, and will often defy their masters when the heat is on.

Harrisburg June 10th Action Roundup

from It’s Going Down

Bring an activist home

from Fundrazr

A dear friend and activist was in Harrisburg protesting against the Islamophobic “March Against Sharia Law.” After being illegally forced out of the street, a police horse was used to trample them. They were then tackled by 5 police officers and charged with harrassing a police animal. Bail has been set at the obscene amout of $100k, of which we need 10% to make a bail bond. Any money raised will go toward this cause, or towards paying back any guardian angel who can pay $10k as a loan, $4k of which has already been raised via a different campaign. Anything in excess of $10k will be used for their legal defense. Please help us bring our friend home to safety as soon as possible.

NOTE: This campaign was started because the original YouCaring campaign was taken down. The approximately $4k that was raised through that campaign will be kept an used toward bail and legal fees.

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