Monkton, Vt. – A six day aerial blockade of Vermont Gas Systems’ fracked gas pipeline has ended with one arrest and significant delays at a construction site along the proposed route. Sam Jessup, who occupied a platform in a tree since last Tuesday to halt construction activity, came down voluntarily after police disconnected the cell phone he was using to communicate with supporters on the ground.
“As we continue to effectively halt pipeline construction, we are seeing an escalation in tactics from the police in their response,” said Will Bennington, a spokesperson with the climate justice group Rising Tide Vermont. “AT&T has reported to us that Sam’s phone was disconnected from nearby cell towers, and state troopers confirmed that they had ‘other tricks up our sleeves’ to disrupt the action, including interfering with the cell phone.”
Chittenden County Sheriff’s deputies reportedly harassed Sam at night early on in the week, yelling threats to cut his ropes, banging on the tree and blasting sirens intermittently to keep him awake.
Jessup is currently being held at the Chittenden County Correctional Center in South Burlington, marking the first time someone has been sent to jail for participating in civil disobedience against the pipeline.
“It is truly disturbing to see how invested the state is in protecting Vermont Gas’ ability to build new fossil fuel infrastructure, when they’ll barely lift a finger to support the communities impacted by this disastrous project,” Bennington said.
The tree-sit began two days after 5 people were arrested for locking themselves to pieces of construction equipment in Williston, and was part of a week of action to disrupt the beginning of construction season. The pipeline project is over a year behind schedule and the cost has nearly doubled since Vermont Gas originally filed for permits in 2012.
“Despite an escalation in police tactics, we will continue to fight this pipeline until the very end. We see this pipeline as an extension of the economic and political systems that have wreaked havoc on communities across the world and that maintain such intense economic inequality across the country,” Bennington said. “This battle may be over for today, but our bigger fight against fossil fuel infrastructure, an unaccountable government regulatory system and a profit-driven economic system that prioritizes profit over people will continue.”
Supporters are currently gathering at Chittenden County Correctional Center in South Burlington, where Jessup may be held overnight.