Why Do Protesters Against Egregious Environmental and Financial Misconduct Get Arrested, But Not Corporate Perpetrators?

By Mark Karlin / Truth-Out

By Mark Karlin / Truth-Out

It’s sadly what we’ve come to expect: advocates for saving the planet — and present and future lives with it — and those who protest financial crimes and improprieties get arrested, charged, and often serve jail time, but those responsible among the corporate and financial elite go free.

In this case, the headline on mlive.com (as in Michigan) that came to our attention reads, “Four protesters arrested at Enbridge pipeline construction site charged with felony.” 

Enbridge is a massive intertnational oil and gas pipeline company (based in Canada) that, as noted in a study by the Polaris Institute, fesses up to large scale environmental damage:

Thousands of litres of dangerous fluids are released from the company ’s pipelines and holding tanks into the environment each year.

According to Enbridge’s own data, between 1999 and 2010 , across all of the company’s operations there were 804 spills that released 161,475 barrels of hydrocarbons into the environment.

This amounts to approximately half of the oil that spilled from the oil tanker the Exxon Valdez after it struck a rock in Prince William Sound, Alaska in 1988.

Enbridge’s most infamous spill in the US occurred along a pristine stretch of the Kalamazoo River in July of 2020. InsideClimateNews.com won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the first major tar sands oil spill in America:

It was near Marshall [Michigan] that an aging oil pipeline burst on July 25, 2010 and spilled more than one million gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil into the Kalamazoo River. It was the largest inland oil pipeline spill in U.S. history, and its effects can still be seen today in the river and in the lives of the people who live near it. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates as much as 180,000 gallons of oil still lie on the river bottom and some of it is moving toward a Superfund site….

The Kalamazoo accident was the first major pipeline spill involving diluted bitumen, or dilbit, the same type of oil that will be carried by the Keystone XL pipeline if the Obama administration approves the project.

Bitumen is a tar-like substance that must be diluted with liquid chemicals before it can flow through pipelines. When the Michigan pipeline split open, the chemicals slowly evaporated and the bitumen began sinking to the river bottom.

From accusations of abuse of eminent domain, to toxic leakages, to facilitating excessive carbon production, to even charges of tacit condoning of paramilitary executions of opponents of pipeline work in Colombia, Enbridge is a big target for protestors when looking at corporations that, it appears, triumphantly bulldoze environmental interests and human rights out of their way.

As michlive.com reported about a July 22nd act of civil disobedience:

Four people arrested Monday at the site of a pipeline protest northwest of Stockbridge [Michigan] have been charged with a felony.

Vickie Rose Hamlin, 59, of Michigan City; Lisa Michelle Leggio, 35, of Holland; Barbara Ellen Carter, 22, of Detroit; and William Michael Lawrence, 22, of East Lansing are charged with resisting or obstructing police, a felony, and trespassing, a misdemeanor, according to a statement from the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office.

There were 20 to 30 demonstrators gathered early Monday, July 22, at the site of an Enbridge gas pipeline construction project in the area of Grimes Road and Dexter Trail roads, the sheriff’s office reported.

The individuals are part of the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands and were working to halt the efforts of Enbridge, which is replacing and increasing the capacity of its crude oil and petroleum pipeline through 10 Michigan counties.

“Enbridge itself has consistently demonstrated that their sole priority is their own bottom line, not the health and safety of the people of Michigan, our ecosystem and even their own workers,” the group said in a statement.

There’s a much larger story here beyond the courage of the advocates to prevent climate change and prevent a global fossil fuel pipeline company from expanding its bitumen (tar sands oil) transport capacity in the US.

What becomes apparent from the nationwide law enforcement suppression of the Occupy Movement to the arrest of protesters against sub-prime home foreclosures to the arrest of anti-Tar Sands pipeline advocates for the earth and our lives…what becomes apparent is that those who resist the rapacious profit-machine of the consumer society and monetization of the value of life are the ones who are shackled as law breakers, threats to the social order, people to be stigmatized as targets of police (and intelligence surveillance) action.

Meanwhile, those who exploit our economy and planet  — as if they were driving a speed boat three sheets to the wind through endangered coral reefs, tossing their champagne bottles overboard to become flotsam on a polluted sea — are not, with rare exception, held accountable.

(Photo: David Vilder)

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Originally posted by Buzzflash / Truth-Out here.

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