On the 26th of July, the “Summer Heat” march against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline stormed the I st office building containing the office of ERM or Environmental Resources Management. Two teams locked down inside, one blocking the elevators, one upstairs at ERM’s office.
ERM is the firm selected by the Department of State to conduct the environmental review of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Recent revelations of their ties to the oil industry (conflicts of interest) have again threatened to derail the entire approval process and business sources say this could kill the pipeline outright. Already investors are cutting their losses and bailing out.
The June 26th lockdown shines a bright light on this scandal and hopefully will intensify the pressure. The lockdown caused police to prevent ERM workers from entering the building on their return from lunch, and effectively shut the building down for about an hour and a half.
Most of the lockboxes were said to be simple PVC pipe dressed as pipeline segments, but some of the lockboxes used upstairs were reinforced in partial “tootsie roll” fashion. This forced police to switch from the chop saw to nibbling through the sides with bolt cutters, a much slower process. A layer of steel underneath would have been too large for the bolt cutters to encircle, and possibly would have halted the removal operation. If all of the standard Tootsie Roll ingredients had been used, the cops would have been forced to stop and sharpen the bolt cutters many times. I won’t publish those ingredients here, most people who make lockdown devices know what they are-and what a hassle they are to use.
With 50+ arrests, this is the largest civil disobediance in DC over the pipeline since September 2011! The sucess of the action was helped by meticulous planning and a false target the announcement seemed to telegraph. Many thought the target had to be McKanna and Aldridge, about a block away.This may have prevented ERM from expecting to he hit-and both the “A-team’ that went upstairs to the office and the “B-team” that secured the elevators were able to get in unopposed. The B team was very large and entirely took over the lobby, even attempting to storm the staircase before encountering locked gates inside the fire staircase. As guards turned off the elevators, the B team deployed lockboxes to keep the shut down. Meanwhile the C-team supported everyone from outside.
The one-block march set out at 11:40AM, it took until about 1:30PM for cops to get the building reopened. The damaged tootsie rolls the cops brought out last looked like the pipeline might look a few months after any attempt to open it. The cops had chewed like rats (rather than pigs) with boltcutters until the pins could be removed.
Tootsie roll use in DC has been exceptionally rare until now. Plain PCV pipes have been common, but any kind of reinforced lockdown was rare until the March 2013 lockdown in the lobby of the “Tar Dollar Bank”or TD Bank at 15th and P Streets.