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Enbridge protesters arrested for blocking traffic, disobeying cops

McGraw (click for larger version)
July 30, 2014 - Two activists protesting against the Canada-based Enbridge company were arrested July 24 in Oxford Township for allegedly blocking the path of vehicles entering and exiting a construction staging area off Lakeville Rd.

Alan Smith, 50, of Chesterton, Indiana, and Jacob McGraw, 31, of Milford, were arraigned July 25 in Rochester Hills 52-3 District Court on the misdemeanor charges of mass picketing and failure to comply with an order or direction from a police officer.

The mass picketing charge stems from obstructing or interfering with the entrance to or egress from a place of employment.

Both were held overnight in the Oakland County Jail, then released on personal bond.

McGraw (click for larger version)
Smith and McGraw were part of a group of approximately 12 to 14 activists associated with the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI CATS) who were protesting against Enbridge on the fourth anniversary of a massive oil spill near Marshall, Michigan.

On July 26, 2010, Enbridge's Line 6B – a 285-mile crude oil pipeline that stretches from Griffith, Indiana to Sarnia, Ontario – ruptured and spilled an estimated 843,000 gallons of oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the spill prompted the costliest onshore cleanup in U.S. history at more than $800 million. It was widely considered one of the worst oil spills ever in the Midwest.

Oakland County Sheriff's Det. Jon Elges said the MI CATS protesters situated themselves along the Polly Ann Trail, which is public property, in front of the main entrance to the Koenig Sand & Gravel site off Lakeville Rd.

Enbridge has been leasing part of the Koenig site and using it as its main staging area for the final phase of the Line 6B replacement project. Construction of the new pipeline in Oxford and Addison began in May and is expected to end in August.

The Polly Ann Trail runs across the Koenig site's driveway, which is connected to Lakeville Rd. Elges said the protesters were continuously walking back and forth on the trail and interfering with vehicles "to the point where they were impeding the flow of traffic on Lakeville (Road)."

"It was backing up," he said. "That's when we had to step in and start directing them (as to) when they could and could not (cross)," the detective said.

Elges explained McGraw repeatedly blocked vehicles as they entered and exited the Koenig site by deliberately walking in front of them.

McGraw was allegedly warned three times by three different officers to cease his actions. Elges said when he did it a fourth time and argued with an officer, he was arrested.

After McGraw's arrest, Smith "just went and stood there in the middle of the (driveway)."

"I asked him three times to move," said Elges, who warned Smith that if he did not comply, he, too, would be arrested. "He said, 'No, I'm not moving,' so then I arrested him."

Elges said the protest was "peaceful all the way up to that point." Other than that, there were no other incidents.

"Most of them were following instructions and doing things legally," said Sgt. Scott Patterson, commander of the Oxford substation.

Patterson explained that although the protesters were on public property, it's against the law for them to block Koenig's driveway.

"They have a First Amendment right to protest, they've just got to do it legally," the sergeant said. "They have a right to be there. They have a right to speak their opinion. They have a right to carry their signs. But you can't block the ingress and egress (for a property), and you've got to follow the instructions of law enforcement officers."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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