By CAMERON DODD
PRESIDIO COUNTY — Two activists were arrested Saturday morning during a protest action against a Trans-Pecos Pipeline construction site north of Shafter.
Indigenous activist Jakki Hagans and Alpine resident Mark Glover were arrested around 8am Saturday after attaching themselves to the tracks of a heavy construction machine on the pipeline’s easement near Highway 67. Hagans and Glover inserted their arms into a metal tube stuck through the machine’s tracks.
At least 20 other indigenous and local protestors took to the easement, drumming, waving flags atop the pipeline and attempting to block contractors from entering the construction site. Hagans and Glover, however, were the only two arrested when Presidio County Sheriff’s Department officers arrived.
The action was organized by members of the Society of Native Nations (SNN), an indigenous-led group, and the local Big Bend Defense Coalition.
Organized resistance to the Trans-Pecos Pipeline is almost as old as the project itself, but opposition to the 143-mile natural gas line seemed to escalate after protests in Cannon Ball, North Dakota against the Dakota Access Pipeline caught national attention in late 2016. Locals and indigenous activists from around Texas have organized several marches in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux-led North Dakota protests.
Both pipelines are owned by Energy Transfer Partners, a Dallas-based oil and gas firm headed by Kelcy Warren.
SNN members and local activists recently inaugurated a protest camp in Presidio County. The Two Rivers Camp, styled after Standing Rock’s Oceti Sakowin Camp, was opened Dec. 30 on land near Casa Piedra Road (FM 169) to host activists joining Far West Texas’ opposition to the Trans-Pecos Pipeline.
SNN organizer Frankie Orona, who spearheaded Saturday’s action, appeared disappointed but energized following the arrests of Glover and Hagans.
“We planned to be there all day, so it was a little discouraging, but we proved that we can do it,” Orona said. “Maybe it was only for an hour, but we showed we can do it if we come together and do it the right way with prayer. It showed the outside community that we need more water protectors to come down and support the cause.”
Saturday’s action marks the second time protesters have attempted to physically block construction. Alpine residents Lori Glover — Mark Glover’s wife — and Roger Siglin were arrested in December after chaining themselves to the gates of the construction material staging area in Alpine.
Orona, who previously helped organize a Standing Rock solidarity march in Alpine last year, was outside the Presidio County Jail Saturday following the arrests. In a truck near the jail, other SNN members and protesters drummed and chanted in a truck bed.
“We’re singing and praying and hopefully they’ll hear us,” Orona said. “This was just the first action from the camp. We’ll just grow from it.”
Orona’s fellow activists shared his commitment to continuing to protest the pipeline.
“This was good for a first action,” Pete Hefflin, an SNN member and Hagans’ husband, said. “There will be more. We’re here until something changes, we’re here for the long haul.”
“All this land is sacred, it doesn’t matter if it’s going through a burial ground or an old village site,” Robert Moffett, Austin resident and indigenous activist, said. Moffett is a long-time SNN member and has been camped at Two Rivers Camp for the past week and said he will be there for at least a month. After that, he said he will return to protest if he needs to.
“I’ve still got to take care of my family, but this is something that takes care of them, too,” Moffett said. “I have kids, and I’m going to have grand kids. If all this [pipeline] stuff goes on they won’t have anything left.”
“We want to kill the black snake,” Ron Valenzuela said, referring to the pipeline. Valenzuela is a not a member of the SNN, but said he came out to West Texas from San Jose, California, to stand with his native brothers and sisters.
At press time Hagans and Glover were still in Presidio County Sheriff’s Department custody.