One Mountain Valley Pipeline tree sitter safely removed, one remains

Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 8:31 AM EDT
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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - UPDATE: According to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Claire Marian Fiocco, 23 of Dorset, Vermont, was arrested and charged with VA Code 18.2-121 Interfere W/Property Rights of Another and is being held in the Montgomery County Jail without bond.

Courtesy Montgomery County Sheriff's Office
Courtesy Montgomery County Sheriff's Office(Montgomery County Sheriff's Office)

Crews stopped working at sunset, and the worksite is now secured. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police and Christiansburg Police Department will stay on scene throughout the night to maintain the worksite and surrounding areas.

Negotiations with the remaining tree sitter are scheduled to be continued Wednesday morning.

The extracted tree sitter, Wren, added the following statement through Appalachians Against Pipelines: “If you’re reading this, it means I have been forcibly removed from this chestnut oak that myself and many other human and nonhuman creatures have called home during the last 931 days, through which this tree’s destruction has been prevented. As I think about the events that are likely to occur between my writing this and y’all reading it, I am not afraid. [...] We must dare to imagine alternatives to the system, to tear it down and build something better from the rubble. [...] With my arrest and Acre’s probable extraction, this one instance of resistance, this one physical place that is an enactment of our dreams of another world will fall. But these tree sits were one place out of many that have existed and that will exist, and the flames of resistance cannot be extinguished this easily. The fight continues, and the struggle for a better world always will.”

EARLIER STORY: One tree sitter was successfully removed without injury by a crane with a suspended basket, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

The Virginia State Police removed her from both the “sleeping dragon” and the tree before lowering her to the ground to be checked by medics.

The suspect will be taken before the magistrate.

Crews are working to negotiate with the last tree sitter.

EARLIER: Deputies from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, along with Virginia State Police and Christiansburg Police, have begun an operation to remove tree sitters from platforms off Yellow Finch Lane in Montgomery County. Deputies say the multi-day operation began Tuesday morning.

Between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, deputies went door to door to about 80 homes in the Cove Hollow Community to pass out the attached flyer.

The removal of the tree sitters, who have been protesting the building of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, is the follow-up to a Montgomery County Circuit Court injunction from November 2020, ordering the sitters out of the way.

The county said a crane is in place to assist with removing the remaining protesters, but negotiations continue with the two sitters in the hopes that they will climb down on their own.

The county also arranged for site visits by Montgomery County Board of Supervisor member Sara Bohn and Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettit. Bohn has acted as liaison for local protesters and Commonwealth Attorney Pettit has been consulted for legal guidance since the court order was issued. Legal observers for the protesters have also been provided access to observe the work from a safe zone, according to the county.

This action follows what Montgomery County says have been “months of planning and coordination in order to provide the safest operation for everyone involved. It is our hopes that the remaining tree sitters will vacate the area on their own; however, we are prepared to extract them safely if necessary.”

While the operation is underway, access to Cove Hollow Road will be restricted to only residents of the area. People living on Cove Hollow Road are told to notice an increased law enforcement presence for the duration of the operation.

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