Lawsuit aims to give medical care to tree-sitter

Lawyers ask for access to Giles County protester

By Tommy Lopez - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

GILES COUNTY, Va. - As a woman calling herself simply “Nutty” is in her 50th day of a tree-sit in Giles County, there’s a new lawsuit filed Wednesday on her behalf.

Lawyers have brought a suit against the Forest Service demanding that the government allow a physician to give Nutty medical care at her position in the Jefferson National Forest.

The woman protesting construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline hasn’t had access to supplies, as Forest Service workers blocked off the area around her so-called monopod more than a month ago. She said earlier this month she still has water and some food with her.

People close to the protester have said workers have blocked medical personnel from accessing Nutty.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges Forest Service workers have directed smoke at her, shined bright lights on her and placed noisy generators near her location in the way of pipeline workers.

“The actions of the Forest Service are tantamount to torture at this point. I’m not exaggerating. I’m not using hyperbole,” said Alan Graf, a lawyer based in Floyd.

The Rutherford Institute filed the lawsuit arguing that Forest Service agents have violated the rights of a physician. The lawsuit says Dr. Greg Gelburd wants to examine the 28-year-old protester and has legal access under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and First Amendment.

Graf said he expects to file a motion Wednesday or Thursday asking a judge to grant Gelburd access before the lawsuit is heard in court.

Supporters have set up a camp with tents just outside of the blocked-off zone. As many as 100 people have come through the area to show support. Just to get to the location, a 10 News crew hiked with supporters for more than an hour, because the Forest Service has closed a nearby road.

One other tree-sitter is still protesting in the natural gas pipeline’s route in Virginia. While the person’s identity is unknown, he or she is positioned in the middle of a Franklin County family’s farm. A judge ruled Tuesday that two landowners will face a total of $2,000 in fines for allowing tree-sitters to take three positions in the pipeline’s path, blocking construction workers.

Two Roanoke County tree-sitters came down earlier this month in the middle of the family’s Bent Mountain property after a judge ordered fines and the potential for U.S. Marshals to remove them by force if necessary.

Construction continues on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is projected to run from West Virginia into North Carolina, crossing through Giles, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania counties in Virginia.

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