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Roanoke County police deliver pizza, sandwiches to pipeline protesters in tree stands

Roanoke County police deliver pizza, sandwiches to pipeline protesters in tree stands

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After provisions ran low in two tree stands occupied by pipeline protesters, Roanoke County police used plastic buckets on a rope to send up pizza and bologna sandwiches to the two women.

The police officers, who have been keeping a close watch on the mother-and-daughter team of tree-sitters, were told for the first time Sunday that they needed food.

“Their requests were accommodated immediately,” county spokeswoman Amy Whittaker said.

As the anti-Mountain Valley Pipeline stands of Theresa “Red” Terry and her daughter, Theresa Minor Terry, drew national attention, some observers accused police of treating the women inhumanely by denying them food and water.

In fact, Whittaker said, intelligence gathered by police officers camped out below the tree stands indicated that the Terrys only recently depleted a stockpile of necessities during their three weeks aloft.

“As has been repeatedly stated, Roanoke County will provide protesters with what is needed to ensure their physical needs are met,” Whittaker said in a news release Monday.

While Minor Terry ate pizza, her mother dined on bologna sandwiches that were hoisted up to her wooden tree stand in the woods off Poor Mountain Road.

“She got the better end of the deal,” Red Terry said of her daughter, adding that she suspected her meal was someone’s packed lunch after she requested “something with meat, not any vegetarian crap.”

The Terrys say they plan to sit tight for as long as it takes to block Mountain Valley from cutting trees for a natural gas pipeline slated to pass through land that has been in their family for seven generations.

Other activists have taken similar stands along the pipeline’s 303-mile route — in the Jefferson National Forest to the west and Franklin County to the south — as part of a movement that now numbers eight people atop trees or poles and many more supporters on the ground.

New and old friends of the Terrys have converged on Bent Mountain to set up Camp WANGA — which stands for We Are Not Going Anywhere — at the base of the tree stands.

Some have complained that police and Mountain Valley security officers have prevented them from delivering food and water to the women, who are camping out about 30 feet above the ground on wooden platforms covered by tarps.

“It is both necessary and important to the safety of all concerned that certain items not be permitted in these makeshift dwellings … and public safety staff will continue to deny those who wish to directly provide support from doing so,” Whittaker wrote in her news release.

An attorney for the Terrys says that Roanoke County, Virginia State Police and Mountain Valley security officers have been “working in tandem” to make it hard to communicate with the tree-sitters.

With supporters required to stay at least 50 feet away from the stands, “it is impossible for counsel to engage in confidential communications with Red and Minor,” attorney Tom Bondurant of Roanoke wrote in court papers filed Monday.

Bondurant represents the Terrys in a federal case in which Mountain Valley is asking that they be held in contempt of court.

The company is relying on a Jan. 31 ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon, who found that Mountain Valley is entitled to an easement through the Terrys’ land under the laws of eminent domain, which allow the taking of private land for a public use.

During hearings to condemn nearly 300 parcels, attorneys for the pipeline stressed that they needed a quick decision from the judge to have trees cut by March 31, a deadline imposed by federal protections of endangered species of bats.

That plan was foiled — at least temporarily — after the first tree sit began on Feb. 26.

Two protesters took up positions in trees near the top of Peters Mountain in West Virginia, blocking the route the pipeline will take as it crosses under the Appalachian Trail and enters Virginia.

Mountain Valley worked around the protesters, meeting the March 31 deadline for all logging in the national forest except for a 140-foot stretch along the pipeline right of way.

“Mountain Valley was prohibited from completing the activity due to obstructionists,” the company stated in a letter Monday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which granted a key approval for the pipeline last year.

The company said it “minimized the area that would need to be felled after March 31, 2018 but did not fell trees that might jeopardize the safety of construction workers or the obstructionists.”

The letter asked FERC to allow Mountain Valley to cut the remaining trees. Later on the same day, the request was approved.

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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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