The Norman Transcript

March 25, 2013

Event raises awareness about effect of pipeline projects

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — With cold weather and chilling wind on Sunday, a group of about 40 people braved the weather to attend a benefit concert in Andrews Park to raise awareness about the potential ill effects of pipelines.

Several speakers addressed a variety of topics concerning the Keystone XL Pipeline and other pipeline projects, as well as the effects they have on the earth and those who inhabit it.

Academy Award winning singer-songwriter and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie also performed Sunday and spoke about the issue.

“We’re all here because of the environment,” she said.

Signs taped around the amphitheater at Andrews Park included phrases like “Our water. Our life” and “Tar Sands threatens Oklahoma’s drinking water.”

Sainte-Marie said companies are exploiting rivers and lakes. Due to the history of pipelines leaking, water sources could be compromised if or when a leak occurs.

Sainte-Marie also sang a song called “No No Keshagesh.” “Keshagesh” is a Canadian term meaning “greedy guts.” She said it’s what you call a little puppy who eats his own and then wants everybody else’s.

Sainte-Marie said the song is about environmental greed.

“Take care of your link with life,” she said, regarding Mother Nature.

The activist said Mother Nature is only here “by the skin of her teeth” and “money doesn’t make the world go round,” referring to profits companies are making from projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The keynote speaker for the day was supposed to be Jim Hightower, an acclaimed nationally syndicated columnist, author and former Texas ag commissioner, but he was unable to attend.

Speakers on the list included a survivor of the 2010 ruptured tar sands pipeline in Michigan, Earl Hatley, an Oklahoma Native American and Grand Riverkeeper, several people from Texas including ranchers and those with pipeline information, an activist from Nebraska, and attorneys from Oklahoma and Texas.

One attorney discussed the consequences people might face by taking direct action through non-violent civil disobedience. The attorney said in the case of Elisabeth Leja, 74, of Norman, who chained herself to equipment used to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline in Okfuskee County, she is facing a misdemeanor criminal charge for trespassing. The consequences were 10 days in county jail and a $100 fine.

Others who were arrested later that month at a different site in Oklahoma faced no jail time and had a $250 fine.

“They’re putting their bodies on the line,” the attorney said. “They are not the first and they will not be the last.”

Because of their actions, Leja was able to stop construction for an entire day and and so did the other group of people, he said.

“No significant change ever occurs without taking direct action,” he said. “No significant change really ever happens until a large number of people come together.”

The attorney encouraged people to vote with their feet to make a change and told the crowd there are people and organizations that will support their direct action.

“Consider the future — your child, your grandchild,” he said. “It takes this kind of direct action, and I encourage you to do so.”

Another attorney, David Griggs, talked about SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) suits. Griggs told the crowd about how companies use these lawsuits to intimidate people to make them stop protesting.

The attorney said anti-SLAPP bills in Texas and 27 other states help defendants counter the suit against them. Griggs said some statutes in Oklahoma help with this, but the state doesn’t have an official SLAPP law. He encouraged people to talk to state legislatures and ask them to consider passing the law.

The event was hosted by a group called Truthforce and OMNI.

For more information, visit

truthforce or



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