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Women facing three years jail for peaceful protest against tar sands pipeline

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A 60 year-old great grandmother, a single mother and a woman whose health has been compromised by the tar sands pipeline all remain in jail today, facing up to three years in jail for their peaceful protest last summer.

Vicci Hamlin, Lisa Leggio and Barbara Carter (also known as the Enbridge 3) locked themselves to machinery to block the construction of Enbridge's line 6B tar sands pipeline last July.

The pipeline spilled more than a million gallons of tar sands in 2010, fouling over 70 miles of the Kalamazoo River. The spill still hasn't been fully cleaned up, despite passing the deadline set by the EPA.

The three women were found guilty in January on obstruction and trespassing charges. During the four day trial, the judge refused to allow the defendants to discuss the 2010 oil spill or other environmental issues that motivated the non-violent protest.

After the verdict was reached, Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette canceled bond for all three and remanded them to the Ingham County Jail until their March 5 sentencing hearing. The ruling surprised and angered many, since it is generally only warranted when the judge believes the defendants are a flight risk or pose a serious threat to the community.

In a press release, the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI CATS) said:

Hamlin, a 60-year-old who on Monday became a great-grandmother, has been involved in social activism since the 1960s and until being taken into custody worked as a domestic abuse counselor in Indiana. Twenty-two-year-old Carter lives in Detroit and works with the homeless community. She is an active member of Occupy Detroit and lives three miles from a tar sands refinery which she says makes it hurt for her to breathe when she enters or leaves her home. Leggio, a single mother of two, is expecting her first grandchild next week. Originally from Brooklyn, she was active in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and organized with Occupy Sandy – logging almost 200 hours of service time in two weeks.

During the trial, the women were not be able to argue that their actions were “environmentally necessary” although all three have been personally affected by the environmental and health effects of the industry.

With a looming climate crisis, unjust laws continue to allow for the destruction of the environment, communities and public health – making nonviolent actions like the one these three women took, necessary. Residents and activists say they will continue to work tirelessly to stop the transporting and refining of all tar sands oil.

Concerned citizens are asked to sign this petition calling for the release of the Enbridge 3. The petition currently has over 36,000 signatures.

For more information, see MI CATS and find them on Facebook.

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