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Nearly 100 protesters block work on Mountain Valley Pipeline; some are arrested

Nearly 100 protesters block work on Mountain Valley Pipeline; some are arrested

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ELLISTON — A crowd of nearly 100 crashed a construction site early Monday morning, loudly voicing their opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

When police arrived at the scene off U.S. 460 in eastern Montgomery County and ordered them to leave, about 80 protesters obeyed, forming a procession as they marched, sang and chanted “Doom to the Pipeline.”

About 10 activists remained, chained to heavy equipment and other objects. They were arrested and taken to jail, authorities said.

Although human blockades along the construction right of way have become almost routine over the past three years, Monday’s demonstration was the largest of its kind so far to temporarily block work on the natural gas pipeline.

Organized by Appalachians Against Pipelines and Arm In Arm, a national organization combating climate change, the protest drew local and out-of-state residents to denounce the project’s environmental damage, use of eminent domain and contribution to global warming.

“President Biden, Gov. Northam and Mountain Valley Pipeline officials have been told that clearly the world and civilization as we recognize it cannot survive more conduits of fossil fuels,” said Jim Steitz of Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I will not consent to that, and that’s why I’m here,” Steitz said by telephone from the protest site, which was quickly closed off by a large contingent of officers from the Virginia State Police and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

As of 2 p.m., five men and two women had been been taken in a jail van to the magistrate’s office in Christiansburg, according to Lt. Mark Hollandsworth of the sheriff’s office. Appalachians Against Pipelines later said that 10 people had been arrested.

Names of the individuals, and the charges they face, were not available late Monday afternoon.

After the crowd dispersed, police briefly shut down U.S. 460 in both directions as the procession crossed the highway and formed a support line along the road for the protesters who remained.

Many of them waved anti-pipeline signs, drawing honks of support from some motorists and quizzical looks from others.

Chrissy Martinez of Ohio said she joined the protest out of concern for Southwest Virginia’s water, land and community. “Its health and well-being affects our health and well-being,” she said.

Mountain Valley officials say there is a public need for the natural gas to be transported 303 miles through West Virginia and Virginia by the pipeline, but add that they are taking steps to offset its release of greenhouse gases.

While respecting the views of opponents, “we condemn the illegal and dangerous tactics of those who put themselves and first responders at risk through these kinds of criminal acts,” company spokeswoman Natalie Cox wrote in an email.

“We believe there is common ground for all Virginians — and, indeed, all Americans — to reject the kind of attention-seeking, criminal behavior promoted by certain project opponents such as those engaged in these types of activities.”

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Laurence Hammack covers environmental issues, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and business and enterprise stories. He has been a reporter for The Roanoke Times for more than three decades.

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