(Vernal-Moab Utah)-Both Grand County and Uinta County Sheriff’s Deputies were involved in the arrest of 21 so called “land defenders” at the U>S> Oil Sands site near Vernal. Those arrested were released yesterday after spending the night in jail in Vernal. They face possible charges of trespassing, interfering with an arrest and conspiracy to commit escape, according to Uintah County Undersheriff John Laursen. Uintah and Grand county deputies arrested most of the activists after they scaled an 8-foot fenced enclosure and chained themselves to construction equipment on Monday. Seven of those arrested were from Salt Lake City and the rest were from out of state, according to the sheriff’s press release. Activists justify direct action by pointing to tar sands’ ugly track record in Alberta, where vast amounts of water and energy are consumed to separate bitumen, the heavy fractions of oil, from ore. But unlike the steam-based Canadian operations, U.S. Oil Sands will use a non-toxic citrus-based solvent that will be reused.
Deputies arrived at PR Springs at 6 a.m. Monday to find protestors had “vandalized ‘No Trespassing’ signs, placed a culvert, rocks, sagebrush and lumber across the access road to an equipment storage area,” according to the sheriff’s press release issued Tuesday. Fifteen protestors were inside the fenced area. Another 30 sat in front of it, but complied with deputies’ instructions to leave.
As deputies arrested those inside the fence and loaded them into vans, their friends sat on an access road, intertwined arms and refused to leave, the release said. Six of them joined their colleagues in the vans for the 50-mile ride to the Vernal jail and two others were arrested at the jail, where they had gone to support friends in custody. A protest spokesperson said, “This vigil is not going to end because of this police brutality,” She claimed deputies used dogs to intimidate protestors and violently wrenched their arms apart.
“Brutality? There was brutality. I had three officers hit in the head with fists. Other than that, no,” says Undersheriff Laursen. “Dogs were not taken out to cause any intimidation. If any were off leash it was to take potty breaks in the sagebrush.”