Pipeline protesters charged in Montgomery County

Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 8:35 AM EDT
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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia State Police have charged several people for various violations Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023, at a Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) construction site in Montgomery County.

Police say according to witnesses, a driver traveling in the 3800 block of Bradshaw Road stopped in the road and two people - Carol P. Gibbons, 68 of Ohio, and Eliza J. Lox, 19 of New Jersey - jumped out of the vehicle and, using devices known as “sleeping dragons,” attached themselves to construction vehicles parked 10-15 yards off the road. This happened about 6 a.m.

About 20 other activists from Appalachians Against Pipelines gathered nearby, according to police.

Shortly before 10 a.m., a specially-trained state police extrication team began working to remove Gibbons and then Lox from the “sleeping dragon” devices they had used to secure themselves to the construction equipment, according to police. Once both women were rescued from the devices, they were checked by Montgomery County Fire and EMS for dehydration and any medical needs.

Police say a “sleeping dragon” is a device commonly used by activists to secure themselves together and/or to an object. The improvised device is typically fashioned out of PVC pipe or metal, in which a person slips their arms into the pipe and then handcuffs their wrists inside. In this instance, one of the protestors utilized a metal pipe reinforced with pieces of rebar.

State police charged Lox with trespassing, obstructing free passage of another, obstruction of justice and conspire to trespass. Gibbons was charged with trespassing, obstructing free passage of another, obstruction of justice and interfering with property rights.

Additional violations cited against other people at the scene include improper stopping in a highway, trespassing, failure to be in possession a driver’s license, and improper parking.

The scene was clear by 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to police.

A banner at the site read: “STOP COP CITY NO MVP,” according to the protesters, who say the phrase “Stop Cop City” is a “slogan used by a nationwide movement against the construction of a militarized police training facility, dubbed ‘Cop City,’ on 381 acres of urban forest in southeast Atlanta.”

”In the struggle to Save Earth for biological life as we’ve known it, LINES MUST BE DRAWN!” said Carrie Gibbons, one of Tuesday’s protesters in eastern Montgomery County.

A pipeline project spokesperson released the following statement:

Mountain Valley condemns the illegal and dangerous tactics of individuals and groups who put themselves, crew members, and first-responders at risk by engaging in attention-seeking, criminal behavior. While we respect the views of those opposed to the project, it is expected that opponents will conduct themselves in accordance with applicable laws to ensure public safety.

In keeping with stringent security protocols, unauthorized persons are not permitted to access the right-of-way during construction or to be within the marked limits of disturbance. As we have consistently stated, the safe construction and operation of the MVP project remains our top priority and ensuring public safety is paramount.

The project being built is a natural gas pipeline system that spans about 303 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, according to Mountain Valley Pipeline officials. Protesters are concerned about environmental effects of the project.