These Two Texans Were Tasered, Choked and Pepper Sprayed for Protesting the Keystone XL

Keystone XL Blockade/CC BY 2.0

Are these the faces of hardened, dangerous criminals? When you look at that image above, do you see the very portraiture of a menace to society? East Texas police officers evidently did.

Reports are emerging from Keystone XL Blockade that both of the people pictured above were repeatedly tasered, pepper-sprayed, and placed in chokeholds over a 5-hour period for peacefully blocking the construction of the tar sands pipeline. And this was apparently done so at the encouragement of TransCanada, the Canadian oil company behind the project.

If true, this is outrageous. The two Texas natives, Shannon Bebe and Benjamin Franklin, were nonviolently protesting the southern leg of the tar sands pipeline. That leg is currently under construction in their home state, and it threatens to despoil the local environment and kick any unfortunate Texans who live in its path out of their homes for good.

Both had locked themselves to construction machinery at a project site, and succeeded in halting progress for much of the day. And then the police showed up. KXL Blockade recounts what happened next:

Police began using aggressive pain compliance tactics when a senior TransCanada supervisor named John arrived and actively encouraged it. Torture tactics included; sustained chokeholds, violent arm-twisting, pepper spray, and multiple uses of Tasers, all while blockaders where in handcuffs.

Immediately following TransCanada’s consultation, law enforcement handcuffed the protesters’ free hands to the heavy machinery in stress positions and then subjected to repeated torture tactics by four police officers while TransCanada employees stood by and watched.

To recap: those two people you see pictured above were peacefully obstructing a construction project that threatens their homeland. Police show up. Police tell them to scram. Oil industry supervisors show up. Oil industry supervisors tell the police to use pain compliance tactics to punish a pair of American citizens. The police brutally comply.

KXL Blockade has more of the harrowing details:

A plain-clothes police officer was among the aggressive officers to implement torture tactics. He put Franklin in a chokehold cutting off his breathing, and bent him over backwards in an attempt to make him pass out. Franklin reports difficulty swallowing because of bruises sustained to his esophagus.

The most physically aggressive was the ranking officer, a Lieutenant with the Wood County Sheriff Department under the observation of TransCanada employees. He twisted and contorted the tube that Bebe and Franklin had locked their arms into, cutting off circulation to their hands and cutting abrasions into their hands and forearms.

Franklin and Bebe then describe pepper spray as the most painful part of their ordeal. Police sprayed into their lockdown tube, and the chemicals burned their already-open wounds ... After the pepper spray didn’t work the police again conferred with TransCanada employees before sending someone back to the police car to bring a taser. Franklin and Bebe were each tased for one second. Then Franklin was tased for 5 entire seconds. He described the pain as immense and almost physically unbearable.

They were eventually removed when it was clear that TransCanada was willing to do whatever it took to increase pain levels to physically unbearable levels.

After the torture session ended, John, the senior TransCanada supervisor openly congratulated the aggressive Sheriffs Department Lieutenant on a “job well done.” To which the Lieutenant replied: “if this happens again we’ll just skip to using pepper spray and tasing in the first 10 minutes.”

Amazingly, the pair endured the abuse for five hours before being arrested and hauled off. Like I said; if this is true — and there's no good reason to doubt the account, which is confirmed by reportage from Democracy Now — it is an outrage. Let's get some cameras down there, stat.

Tags: Activism | Tar Sands | Tar Sands Action