I had no intention of getting arrested as part of the Keystone pipeline opposition.
My friend Stefan Warner, youth minister at Church of the Open Arms, had been by a few times and talked about it. He asked me what I thought about him getting arrested and I told him I would certainly support him 100% and it was a good thing to do.
Then he asked if I would consider getting arrested.
That wasn’t so interesting to me. I am, after all, a busy person. I have lots of responsibilities. But I will help publicize and write letters and etc from the safety of my home at NW 21 and McKinley.
Somehow though the thought wouldn’t go away. It kept coming back to my mind, typically when I was praying and just after receiving Communion, and so I continued to work on my list of excuses, eventually developing a really impressive list of reasons why I could not do that particular thing in the cause of justice and care of Creation.
In other words, Jonah was becoming my middle name.
To refresh our memories a bit. . . God told Jonah to go preach repentance to the people of Ninevah, capital of Assyria, surely one of the most bloodthirsty empires of all time, whose spectacles of torture of captives are legendary even to this late date. I’m sure Jonah figured he would end up being torn to pieces in some particularly fiendish way just for the entertainment of the population.
As we all know, his refusal extended to running away on an ocean voyage, and a three day stay in the belly of a whale.
Fortunately, I managed to avoid the whale fate.
A few days ago I came to a sudden certainty that yes Bobby Max Waldrop, you needed to go put your body on the line. The spiritual discernment method that I am trained in is known as the Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius, and this certainly fit the bill as one of the methods God makes His will known to us. So I sent an email to my friend, Frank Cordaro, at the Des Moines Catholic Worker, who has been urging me for some time to take up getting arrested as a spiritual discipline, just in case, you know, the next morning the certainty was gone. If it had been gone, that would itself have been a sign that perhaps it wasn’t God speaking to me but only my emotions or the politics of the moment. Everybody doesn’t have to do everything in the cause of justice, peace, and the care of Creation, but I think it is unwise to turn your back on what God might be calling a person to do.
In any event it wasn’t gone the next day and it didn’t go away as we planned this event and so it came to pass that arrangements were made with the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance team and we were off to Hughes County about 4 AM Monday morning. I had about 1 hour sleep.
Spiritually I was ready. I went to confession on Sunday, received Communion at Mass. I took along a Rosary, prayer cards for all my favorite saints (IF YOU MUST KNOW — St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist, St. Joan of Arc, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Patrick, St Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist), St Peter, St Michael the Archangel, St Florian patron of firefighters).) I didn’t have a prayer card for her, but I had been praying a Novena to St. Kateri Tekawitha. I also took my house icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a Crucifix. We inscribed the words Kyrie Eleison on the restraint (see the picture for how it turned out) and I also bought 4 dozen flowers.
We got to the site around 6 AM. We had easy access. There was no night watchman. There was no “No Trespassing” sign. The gate wasn’t locked. We opened it and then we closed it behind us.
The first snafu was that the first idea for a place to attach me and my giant concrete restraint turned out to be too high in the air and I thought it would be too straining physically for me to be in that position for long. So we found another excavator across the road, which had a convenient metal ring that I could put my arm through, then that arm went into one side of the cast and the other into the other side, and voila, I was not going anywhere.
The first workers arrived and some hilarity ensued. Apparently if they don’t get sent to another site they get the day off with pay after waiting a certain amount of time. When one left, he hollered out his window, “Come back any time boys.”
A friend who is also part of the GPTSR stayed with me. I had a bladder with a sipping tube for water, and some boiled eggs and pumpkin seeds for snacks. I wasn’t particularly hungry but just before the sheriff arrived I decided to go ahead and eat an egg.
The site was “flat Oklahoma land.” I had taken my contact lenses out, the wind was blowing and I figured the extraction, when it happened, would have to be somewhat vigorous, so the contact lenses came out before I locked myself down and went into a case in my little personal bag I had with me, which also had a couple days worth of my medications.
The sun came up. Birds started chirping. It was a beautiful clear morning, there were cattle on pasture not fenced away from the construction site. They ignored us until the sheriff and firefighters arrived, then they started running across the road in front of their cars, sort of like they were running interference for us.
The sheriff walked up and said something along the lines of “It’s a fine morning young man.”
I replied, “That seems to be an exaggeration.” He asked — “Which, the fine morning or the young man?” I said, “The young man,” Which he thought was funny. About that time the under-sheriff walked up — in uniform — and said, “He’s just mad because I dragged him out of the coffee shop.”
They both came over and inspected the restraint device. They asked me what Kyrie Eleison meant. They didn’t ask me to leave. In fact, no one ever actually asked me to leave. Not the sheriffs, not the firemen, not the representative from Trans Canada who eventually showed up. I think they just forgot in the excitement. They did ask if there were feces inside, and I replied, “There better not be.” I guess somebody told them that we might do that, somebody probably being Trans Canada.
They wandered off for a minute, came back, a Trans Canada guy showed up and started snapping pictures and recording video. No one had asked my friend to leave.
The Holdenville Fire Dept then arrived in a small truck with two firemen. They were a bit more grumpy, “Don’t you realize someone might die because we are here and can’t rescue them?” I replied, “Surely your dispatch would have enough sense to pull you out of here if somebody somewhere else was actually at risk of some real danger.”
So he brought over an ax, handed it to the sheriff, who started hitting the restraint device rather vigorously about 4 inches in front of my nose. Then the sheriff handed the ax to the firefighter and said, “You’re younger than me, you do it.” About that time, the Trans Canada guy asked the sheriff to ask my friend to leave. I guess they decided they didn’t want any witnesses.
After he was gone, the firefighter (the grumpy one) started whacking, first with the sharp end of the ax, then with the flat back. That cracked some concrete, they fetched additional tools and started working through the layers. Then they started whacking again, this time to the front of the device, so the blows were effectively aimed at my upper torso.
I was amazingly calm throughout this. My heart rate did not elevate. None of the tell tale signs of high blood pressure materialized. I almost felt disembodied, as if I was watching this happen to someone else. The ax whacking became a lot more vigorous and the restraint device began to move around quite a bit, which caused some considerable amount of pain to my wrists. There were chains on my wrists, which carabiners on the end, when I put my arms into the restraint, I clipped the carabiners on to a bolt embedded into the device.
So I decided I had made my point and I told them, “I am at my limit.” They immediately stopped and I extricated my left hand, but I had to have help with the right because the device had moved so that I didn’t have any play in the chain and one of the onlookers had to reach in through the left arm hole and undo the carabiner.
The under-sheriff then walked me over to his car and searched me. I said, “You aren’t going to handcuff me?” He said, “You aren’t telling me that you need to be handcuffed are you? ” I said, “No.”
Nice ride, as such things go, to the Hughes County Jail. At the jail, I waited a bit while the booking matron released someone, and then she began the booking process. While being fingerprinted, the other inmates were calling out, “Oh no, they’ve arrested Santa Claus, we won’t get any presents.” The matron told them, “Settle down boys, his elves have already bailed him out.”
Catholic Workers often refuse to post bail, Dorothy Day never posted bail, she just waited until they let her out. What can I say, this was my first time, maybe I will “do better” next time.
We ended up at a McDonalds, where I ate my first McDonalds food in a Very Long Time. It was a salad though, so I didn’t get any pink slime, lol. They had wifi which is why I guess it was chosen for the rally point.
Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance was very well organized and tactically, the entire effort was carried out very well. I am very grateful to them for their practical and moral support, the bail money, and their experience and organizing abilities. There was a police liaison, a worker liaison, a media team, a companion for the resistor, and back up people here and there with vehicles. Some of the workers took our flowers but none of the law enforcement or fire department people did.
I have been charged with trespassing, although my lawyer notes that in the absence of any official demand for me to leave, he is no sure what grounds they have to charge me with trespassing. In any event, I will plead “Not guilty because my actions were necessary to prevent a greater evil.” First court date is June 28, my attorney is Bob Parr, who seems very competent and eager (the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance arranged for the attorney).
While standing there for several hours, I had time for some musings. I find myself wondering why there is such a ruckus when something like this happens. After all, they could have just left us there until we got tired and left and then this would have been a complete non-event. But that’s not what they did. They swooped down on us and the whole thing played out. So I am wondering “What’s up with Trans Canada?” They made a point in their PR about our action that the pipeline was “on schedule” but I wonder if that is really true. They aren’t acting like a corporation confident of its position.
In fact, they seem to be acting like they are freaked out scared of something.
I wonder what that might be?
Rumor has it that TransCanada may sue the protestors. That’s fine. They are going to fight with money. We will resist with time. They will run out of money before we run out of time.
Ad majorem Dei gloriam!
Ten Tragedies, a Call to Action, an Appeal to People of Faith — the reasons why I did this.
Novena to St. Kateri Tekawitha against the pipeline construction (start it and pray it anytime, anywhere!)
Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance