By Ryan S. Clark
STOCKBRIDGE -- Security around the Enbridge 6B easement will be increased due to "safety concerns" after 12 people were arrested Monday during a protest at the site, a company spokesman said.
Eight protesters from the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands were arrested in the morning out of a group of about 40.
Four more protesters, who had attached themselves to two bulldozers, were arrested by early afternoon.
"We will absolutely be reviewing our security protocol," said Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum. "We are looking at around the clock, 24/7 security. When you think about it, you are talking about people's safety on the site. You are also talking about the integrity of that pipeline."
The 285-mile pipeline is in the second and final phase of an expansion project set to be completed by the end of the year. Enbridge started the second phase which will widen and replace the initial pipeline on July 8, Manshum said.
Manshum said the company lost six hours of work due to the protest but it shouldn't delay the project's completion.
"While we certainly respect people's rights to have their views ... breaking the law and putting their safety in danger along with the safety of others is not a way to do it," he said. "This is why it is an issue and we need to have it resolved."
The pipeline remains controversial. It ruptured in July 2010 dumping 800,000 gallons of crude oil into a Kalamazoo River tributary near Marshall.
The coalition, also known as MI CATS, said its mission is to stop all transportation and refining of tar sands oil in Michigan and throughout the nation.
"We think tar sands are dangerous from where it is refined in Alberta to where it is burned and refined in Detroit and overseas," said Chloe Gleichman, the group's spokeswoman. "So we came out here to take a stand against it."
Lt. Vern Elliott of the Ingham County Sheriff's Officesaid the protesters arrested in the morning are expected to face trespassing charges. Those who had to be detached from the bulldozers are expected to face trespassing and obstruction charges.
Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said no charges had yet been requested by law enforcement.
Because four protesters used homemade devices to attach themselves to bulldozers, specialists from the Michigan State Police and the Michigan State University Police were called in to assist the Sheriff's Office.
To attach themselves to the bulldozers, each pair of protesters inserted their arms into pipes and joined hands. The pipes were wrapped with heavy axle grease covered in chicken wire and coated in a foreign substance, said Lt. Tom Kish of the Michigan State Police. Protesters can release themselves by letting go, or officials can cut the pipe and separate the pair.
Kish said it took about 45 minutes to free each pair.
"One of them told me up front that they know we have a job to do but they were passionate," Kish said. "They were not swearing at us and not making our jobs difficult in cutting the devices apart. They understood the possible danger to cut the device."
Kish said a remote camera allowed authorities to see where they needed to cut without harming the protesters. He said the protesters were given fireproof blankets so they wouldn't burn from the sparks.
Coalition members were upset when authorities used their vehicles to shield the women from public view.
"At the time they were being extricated, that is when most of the protesters got fired up and we saw it as a way to minimize the drama," Kish said. "But I will tell you there were undercover officers at the scene and it was a concern they were not filmed on camera."
Gleichman said police often block protester's view.
"They're going to frame it as a tactical thing or a safety thing, but I don't think it is a safety thing," she said. "They were blocking the view from the public so that accountability is lost and I think that's wrong."
News | July 23, 2013 | Page 1A, 2A
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