UPDATE 3:42 p.m.: The last remaining Yellow Finch tree sitter that was arrested earlier this afternoon has been identified by authorities.
According to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, 24-year-old Alexander Samuel Parker Lowe of Worcester, Massachusetts, was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice and interfering with the property rights of another.
Lowe is being held in the Montgomery County Jail without bond, authorities say.
Work crews and law enforcement will reportedly continue clearing the scene throughout Wednesday evening with the plans to open Cove Hollow Road up completely by the end of the day.
We are very thankful that both sitters were able to be removed successfully with no injuries to anyone involved. This has been a long process; however, the slow and deliberate planning paid off. We appreciate the patience of everyone involved with the process and especially those living in the Cove Hollow community as we carried out this plan over the past two days. Work crews and law enforcement will continue clearing the scene throughout the evening with the plans to open Cove Hollow Road up completely by the end of the day. We want to express our sincere appreciation to both Christiansburg Police Department, the Virginia State Police, and specifically the Virginia State Police extraction team who made it possible to safely remove the sitters.Capt. Brian Wright, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office
In addition, the sheriff’s office reminds community members that the Circuit Court injunction “prohibiting entering, occupying, or otherwise interfering with any of the MVP easements for the project” remains in effect through November.
UPDATE 12:41 p.m.: After a years-long protest against the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the last remaining Yellow Finch tree sitter has been successfully removed, Montgomery County authorities announced Wednesday afternoon.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office says the Virginia State Police extraction team worked from a crane suspended basket to safely remove the final protester from both the “sleeping dragon” and the tree.
The tree-sitter was then lowered to the ground in the basket and checked by medics, but officials say the protester did not sustain any injuries during the extraction and will be taken before the magistrate.
Authorities plan to release arrest information later Wednesday afternoon.
UPDATE 9:10 a.m.: Montgomery County authorities say crews have resumed work Wednesday morning at the site of the remaining Yellow Finch tree sitter amid a years-long protest against the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
According to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, crews will continue working throughout the day to ensure the protester’s safe removal, but negotiators will keep encouraging him to come down on his own.
Officials say conditions at the worksite have become messy and require more caution because of the overnight rain and fog. However, workers are reportedly still able to work slowly and deliberately toward a safe extraction.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — One tree-sitter is in jail after being taken off the Yellow Finch tree Tuesday night following years of protests against the building of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Montgomery County. However, there is still one more protester up in the trees at the pipeline blockade.
The person arrested on Tuesday, March 23 has been identified by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office as 23-year-old Claire Marian Fiocco from Vermont. Authorities say she was charged with interfering with the property rights of another and is being held without bond at the Montgomery County Jail.
Fiocco was taken off the tree a little after 6 p.m. on Tuesday after the sheriff’s office says she partially locked herself to the tree.
The group that supports the tree-sitters — known as “Appalachians Against the Pipeline” — told WFXR News that Fiocco prepared the following written statement before being arrested Tuesday night.
“If you’re reading this, it means I have been forcibly removed from this chestnut oak that myself and many other human and nonhuman creatures have called home during the last 931 days, through which this tree’s destruction has been prevented. As I think about the events that are likely to occur between my writing this and y’all reading it, I am not afraid. […] We must dare to imagine alternatives to the system, to tear it down and build something better from the rubble. […] This one instance of resistance, this one physical place that is an enactment of our dreams of another world will fall. But these tree sits were one place out of many that have existed and that will exist, and the flames of resistance cannot be extinguished this easily. The fight continues, and the struggle for a better world always will.”
This protest of the pipeline started back on Sept. 5, 2018 and has gained support from a number of people, including Del. Sam Rasoul.
Rasoul posted a number of pictures and videos on social media from the scene of the protest at Yellow Finch Lane on Tuesday, voicing his
Meanwhile, Jammie Hale — another supporter of the protest — says his water supply in Giles County is being affected by the pipeline.
“People’s rights have been stepped on. People’s land assessments are going to go down, plus the potential of being killed by this 42-inch frack gas pipeline,” said Hale. “Our legislatures are not helping. They’re not helping. Our governor is not helping. No one is helping but us.”
However, Mountain Valley Pipeline issued the following statement on Tuesday regarding the protesters:
“We appreciate the work of local and state law enforcement personnel who are working to safely remove trespassers from private property today. We strongly condemn the illegal and dangerous behavior of the activists who put themselves, law enforcement authorities, project crew members and others at risk today and during the last several months.
These opponents had every opportunity to comply with the court’s order more than four months ago and to leave on their own. Instead, they chose to defy the law and continue trespassing and interfering with construction of a critical public infrastructure project. In doing so, they created unnecessary safety risks for everyone involved, and while we respect the opinions of those opposed to MVP, and to natural gas pipelines in general, there is no excuse for the unlawful actions taken by these activists.”
Montgomery County Supervisor Sara Bohn has been chosen to witness the extractions since the public and media are not allowed at the site.
Bohn says two officers who are FEMA trained went up in a crane, having to cut through tree branches and use other excavation methods to get to the tree sitters. According to Bohn, nobody was hurt while getting Fiocco out of the tree.
“The officers were trying to communicate with the tree-sitters but they were not communicating back at all. They gently removed her,” Bohn said. “They placed her at the bottom of that basket and just brought her down quietly and safely removed her.”
Fiocco was reportedly checked out by medical personnel at the scene before being taken to jail.
The protesters were given until Nov. 16, 2020 to vacate the trees they had been sitting in for over 800 days at the time. Days later, a Montgomery County judge found the tree-sitters in contempt and said they would be fined $500 for every day they were in the trees.
Wednesday, March 24 marks the 125th day since that fine took effect.
Since Fiocco was arrested on Tuesday, she faces a potential fine of more than $60,000.
The sheriff’s office says negotiations to get the other tree-sitter down are expected to pick back up Wednesday morning.
Now, this isn’t the first blockade to disrupt work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
In February 2018, a group of protesters on the border of Virginia and West Virginia blocked access to the Jefferson National Forest on Peters Mountain, but that blockade was taken down a month later.
Then, in April of 2018, Roanoke County resident Theresa “Red” Terry, along with her daughter, also set up platforms in trees on their property on Bent Mountain. They came down about a month later following a court order.
Finally, in August 2019, two protesters were charged after chaining themselves to construction equipment in Franklin County.