Pipeline protesters comment on jail time, protest

Three young people from Massachusetts locked themselves to MVP equipment in June

MONROE COUNTY, W.Va. – Three Mountain Valley Pipeline protesters who were arrested and spent time in jail said the experience of staging the protest had a positive impact on them.

Max Shaw and Lex Ugar, who are in their 20s, and 18-year-old Syd White locked themselves to MVP equipment in June spent 48 hours in jail in the last month. They picked a spot just across the state line in Monroe County, West Virginia.

They said getting jail time was a surprise, but they knew it was a possibility, and now, for two of them, being on probation makes them more cautious.

They live in Massachusetts and said that being removed from the area made it easier because they weren’t experiencing pipeline work every day.

They said they feel their protest was successful.

“I think we all kind of agreed that this is work that needs to be done, and if we’re in a position to do it then we kind of have a responsibility to do it, even,” White said.

They said that now they feel more strongly about continuing activism work.

“Direct action and direct resistance is a way that says, ‘Look, we’ve tried everything we know how to try. You can’t ignore this,’” Shaw said.

The trio said it liked that the MVP workers get paid even during stops in construction like the one they initiated because they didn’t want to hurt them.

The trio stopped construction for a few hours on Route 219 in the Lindside community on June 4. The protesters said that before cutting them out, police said they would use Tasers and batons on them if they didn’t free themselves. Police eventually cut them out of their positions.

Witnesses say about 25 other pipeline opponents came out to watch. 

Court documents showed police charged each of them with three misdemeanors: trespassing, obstructing and resisting arrest. That could have meant they would have had to spend up to two-and-a-half years in jail.

At least 10 people have placed themselves in the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s path against the company’s request since the start of construction.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline is projected to run from West Virginia into North Carolina, crossing through Giles, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania counties in Virginia. The natural gas pipeline would travel 303 miles and is estimated to cost $3.7 billion.

On Aug. 3, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a stop-work order for the entire project, citing environmental concerns. For work to continue, MVP and regulatory agencies must resubmit environmental protection plans.