Out of State Activists Bring Their Travelling Tour to Ohio, Align With State’s Most Extreme Anti-Fracking Group
by Jackie Stewart, Energy in Depth
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Last month, EID took a look at the various #NoDAPL-style pipeline protest camps cropping up throughout the country. At the time, no such camps had been set up in Ohio. But just one month later, this latest craze of the “Keep It in the Ground” (KIITG) movement has made its way to the Buckeye State.
A so-called #NoDAPL copycat “action camp” aimed at stopping fracking and proposed pipeline routes has been set up in the Wayne National Forest. And it’s being led by none other than Myron Dewey, an independent filmmaker and one of the more prominent online voices of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests, along with Athens-based Appalachia Resist!, Ohio’s most fringe environmental activist group.
If there’s one lesson to be learned from these protest camps it’s that they are predominantly made up of protesters that travel from state to state looking for the next camp to call home. Their goal is disruption at any costs — including illegal activities that end in arrest — and they inevitably leave behind big environmental messes that taxpayers are ultimately forced to pay for.
Ohioans have been victims of out-of-state activists for years, and the latest press release from Appalachian Resist! indicates this trend will continue, in addition to possibly foreshadowing the groups’ latest illegal activities.
Appalachia Resist! A History of Rogue Theatrics & Arrest
Appalachia Resist! this week issued a press release with the headline “More than a hundred people gather in Monroe County to resist fracking and pipelines in the Wayne National Forest. Long term resistance camp launch.”
The press release goes on to say,
“After a three-day long action training conference near the Wayne National Forest, organizers from multiple groups have launched a long-term resistance encampment to defend the Wayne National Forest from fracking and fracked gas pipelines. The action training conference was hosted by Southeast Ohio’s Appalachia Resist!, a direct action environmental justice group known for blockading the oil and gas infrastructure that threatens the rural communities where they live, as well as the recent action where a group member shut down an intersection in front of Chase Bank in Columbus to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
If this scenario sounds familiar, it is because Energy In Depth covered its initial training five years ago. Back in 2012, just as shale development in Ohio was getting started, self-described radical environmental organization Earth First! and its sister organization Appalachian Resist! conducted a chain of training camps, were involved in dangerous and illegal demonstrations, and recruited national groups like 350.org to their cause – actions that led to nothing but destruction of property and a series of arrests.
The groups’ first action camp training appeared to be little more than a means to teach people tactics like tree-climbing, similar to this month’s training. However, if one digs a bit deeper they can find the Earth First! Climber’s Guild has ties to a deeper, less-than-noble agenda. Earth First! has been around for more than 35 years, with a mission statement of “No Compromise in the Defense of Mother Earth!” and employs tactics that not only encourage destruction, but put people’s lives in danger.
They describe themselves on their website as such:
“Earth First! takes a decidedly different tack towards environmental issues. We believe in using all the tools in the tool box, ranging from grassroots organizing and involvement in the legal process to civil disobedience and monkeywrenching.”
In case you’re fuzzy on what the latter tactic entails, “monkeywrenching” is defined on their website as follows:
“Monkeywrenching: Ecotage, ecodefense, billboard bandits, desurveying, road reclamation, tree spiking, even fire. All of these terms describe the unlawful sabotage of industrial extraction and development equipment, as a means of striking at the Earth’s destroyers where they commit their crimes and hitting them where they feel it most—in their profit margins. (emphasis added)
Further, their founders have confirmed their support for this illegal activity, as EarthFirst! co-founder Mike Roselle explained with disturbing bluntness,
“Monkey-wrenching is more than just sabotage, and you’re g*ddamn right, it’s revolutionary! This is jihad, pal.” (emphasis added)
Organizations such as Earth First see growth as evil — from your local car dealership to your favorite ski resort, both of which have been targets of the sister organizations of Earth First, and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). These incidents caused millions of dollars in damage and could have easily ended with an injury or loss of life, and in fact we’ve already seen a few instances of such already in Ohio.
For example, Earth First and Appalachian Resist! staged a dangerous display of activism in New Matamoras at a GreenHunter Class II storage site five years ago in which 10 people were arrested, seven of which were from out of state. The event brought out 100 activists dressed in Hazmat suits to demonstrate against the facility, all while a fellow member constructed a pole tied to equipment on site. In the end, they disrupted business activities for five hours.
A year later, national activists groups entered the Buckeye State as 350.org founder Bill McKibben hosted a rally in Warren, Ohio, sponsored by none other than Appalachia Resist!, as well as groups such as Don’t Frack Ohio (part of McKibben’s 350.org) and Washington, D.C.-based Food and Water Watch.
In fact, Appalachian Resist! led a series of illegal acts from 2012 to 2014 that drew from the same playbook — as participants chained themselves to private property and blocked normal legal business proceedings from taking place. The fiasco was preceded by an Appalachia Resist! press release eerily similar to the one posted this week, and leader Crissa Cummings issued a media statement that said:
“In light of the recent studies that have linked fracking chemicals to birth defects, I feel sick when I think about all the babies and the pregnant friends that were protesting at this site in February, a couple of weeks after the brine spill.”
Less than 24 hours after the press release, Cummings chained herself to the gate of the K&H 2 injection well in Torch, Ohio.
Notably, the study that prompted Cummings’ actions was quickly denounced by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) executive director and chief medical officer. This information may have been very helpful to Cummings before she was compelled to handcuff herself to a gate, causing the business to be shut down for most of the day, and was arrested and charged with trespassing.
Cummings was joined by activist lovers Peter Gibbons-Ballew and Madeline Ffitch. These three amigos must wear their arrest records like a badge of honor, as Ffitch was arrested for blocking access to an injection well in 2012 where she was charged for inducing panic and disorderly conduct, and again in 2014 for trespassing in Athens County.
Ms. Ffitch is a “long-time political and environmental activist and crusading journalist”.
Last year Ffitch and Gibbons-Ballew were cited “occupying” a Wayne National Forest meeting, once again inducing panic and threatening landowners, as was reported in a September EID blog post.
Shortly thereafter, a very small group of protesters made a spectacle of themselves in front of Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s office, with Gibbons-Ballew going so far as to park a van in the middle of a busy intersection for 90 minutes and handcuff himself to it. He was arrested on charges of inducing panic, disorderly conduct, hindering and failure to comply. He later pled guilty and was sentenced to 18 months probation and community service for inducing panic, while the other charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement. Here’s a few photos of how the spectacle went down:
Fast forward to today, and the latest press release makes no mention of Gibbons-Ballew (we’ll get to that in a bit). However, he can be seen clearly holding a baby in a disturbing anti-fracking video that Appalachia Resist! posted three months ago in an effort to recruit activists for its recent so-called “action camp.” The video, narrated by a child and an elderly woman, exclaims “fracking kills” and “the danger is especially high for children, babies and nursing mothers,” as well as a host of other absurd claims. Here’s a picture of Gibbons-Ballew from the video:
While Gibbons-Ballew was not mentioned in the Appalachian Resist! press release documenting the highlights of their so-called weekend “action camp,” he has emerged again under the alias of “Cusi Ballew.” In a recent interview with the Times-Leader, Peter Gibbons-Ballew, aka “Cusi Ballew,” said of the weekend camp,
“These issues, whether they be about racism or environmental degradation, or sexism or genderism, all these things affect us all. We held workshops on issues ranging from racism, cross-movement solidarity, to climb trainings. The climbs train for tree-sitting encampment strategies.”
Gibbons-Ballew — who is still serving his 18-month probation sentence, by the way — went on to say,
“My advice to people reading this is to think long-term, think creatively and think together. Think about the economy we could build for the long-term.”
Gibbons-Ballew encouraging people to “think about the economy” after negatively impacting businesses by shutting down traffic and being arrested for inducing panic is ironic on multiple levels, considering Monroe County has overwhelmingly supported leasing the Wayne National Forest. Gibbons-Ballew has also acknowledged he is an “outsider” and not from Monroe County, where the camp was taking place.
Ballew’s cohort, Ms. Cummings, also can’t get enough media attention, as she was featured yet again in in this week’s press release, stating that companies can “expect a wall of resistance.” The press release also paid homage to Standing Rock and called upon recruits to stand in solidarity of their cause.
Appalachia Resist!’s ongoing aping of #DAPL and Standing Rock via its acts of civil disobedience, press release and the recruitment of leader Myron Dewey showcases just how connected they are to the “Keep It In the Ground” copycat “action camp” craze. One would think they could at least be authentic with this latest stunt, but it’s pretty obvious it is anything but original.
In addition to the recent camp in Ohio, here’s where #NoDAPL and other anti-fracking protesters have migrated since leaving North Dakota:
Texas – Trans-Pecos Pipeline
In Texas, camps were set up along the 148-mile Trans-Pecos Pipeline with many of the protesters traveling to the area from North Dakota. As Fuel Fix reported in December,
“The coalition said it would soon gather at a winter camp in hopes protesters from North Dakota would move south.”
Pennsylvania – Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline
Pennsylvania is currently the site of two campaigns aimed at delaying and stopping pipelines from crossing the Commonwealth. These efforts do not align with the majority of Pennsylvanians’ views on the Marcellus industry, as Wall Street Journal recently reported:
“A majority of Pennsylvania residents support natural gas development and the use of fracking, according to several statewide polls conducted in the past five years. Since 2012, a fee on natural gas wells has generated a billion dollars in revenue for the state. There are more than 12,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines in Pennsylvania.”
In February, protesters began a camp where they built two structures to “disrupt construction” of the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline and hold weekend training meetings. Funding for the camp is anything but local, with at least a portion — $22,000 — coming from Lush, a British cosmetics company.
The Wall Street Journal reported that organizers want to try to prevent some of the things they saw happen when they “made the 1,500-mile drive from Lancaster County to Standing Rock over Labor Day weekend.” From WSJ:
“In Lancaster, protesters won’t be allowed to wear masks as many did at the North Dakota protests, local organizers say. Malinda Clatterbuck, an associate pastor at a Mennonite church who sleeps at the Lancaster encampment several times a week, along with her husband and two daughters, said the group won’t allow tactics that could hurt their cause by turning off local supporters.”
Despite these claims, the organizers welcome former #NoDAPL protesters to make the trek to Pennsylvania. State Impact reported when the camp began,
“Protesters from other states, including groups involved with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest against the Dakota Access line, have also voiced support. ‘Outsiders are fine, we want them too,’ says activist Tim Spiese.”
Arrests have already been made for direct action against the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline.
Pennsylvania – Mariner East Pipeline
The other Pennsylvania camp is protesting the Mariner East 2 Pipeline in Hunterdone County. Organizers of Camp White Pine in Hunterdon County recently sent out a call to action, asking for more people to come support their cause, playing off the #NoDAPL strategy. Also similar to #NoDAPL — which raised over $12.5 million, none of which has gone to clean up their mess – organizers have donation campaigns going to try to raise money to help them stay in the camp.
Kansas/Nebraska – Keystone XL Pipeline
Protesters announced shortly after the March approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline that camps similar to those seen in North Dakota will be set up along the pipeline’s route through Kansas and Nebraska. As the Washington Times reports:
“[c]ritics say the guerrilla warfare tactics used to hold up the Dakota Access project will be seen again.
“We fully expect to stand united and to continue resistance and carry forth the fire of mobilization … in the fight we saw against the Dakota Access pipeline to this next project here,” he [Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network] continued.”
The Atlantic reported,
“We do expect resistance camps along the path of the Keystone pipeline,” said Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network. These camps attracted great public attention throughout the summer and fall, when a similar tactic was used among Sioux-affiliated nations to reject the Dakota Access pipeline.”
It’s clear that “Keep It In the Ground” activists are simply traveling from one pipeline protest camp to another in an attempt to stop all oil and gas development, with no consideration for the local population or environment — despite claiming that’s who and what they are protecting. If #NoDAPL is any indicator, it’s the local communities and the states as a whole that will be left cleaning up their messes. Their actions speak louder than their words, and as we can clearly see with the new alias of Gibbons-Ballew, they are trying to deceive the public of who they really are and what their mission truly is.
Make no mistake, this group is connected to national, well-funded rogue environmental activists, and they have demonstrated again and again they are willing and ready to get arrested at any costs. Their values and carpet-bagging nature stand in sharp contrast to the more than 80 percent of Ohioans that fully support oil and gas development and truly represent the Buckeye State.
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