May 21, SANDISFIELD– In the enduring Yankee spirit of civil disobedience– of which Thoreau wrote so staunchly in favor of in 1849– twenty citizens of Massachusetts congregated at the edge of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline easement in Otis State Forest to finish construction of a “Thoreau Cabin” as part of their ongoing resistance to a $93 million pipeline. The “Thoreau Cabin Pipeline Barricade,” which once sat in the right of way for the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline (NED), has been reassembled on the property of local land owner Sue Baxter, whose land abuts the easement.
Thanks to an ingenious bit of cabin-shifting that proved once again that the Sugar Shack Alliance can move objects thought to be immovable, the cabin was coaxed eight feet to the east, putting it well within compliance of Sandisfield’s building codes, which had been raised the previous Monday to put a temporary halt to the cabin-raising. On Saturday, a lone pipeline worker strolled up the easement at about 2 p.m. talking on his cell phone and was heard to utter, perhaps in disbelief, “Yep, they moved it. And they’re putting a roof on it!” Unlike earlier in the week, though, no town officials turned up to order the cabin dismantled.
Kinder Morgan crews have finished clear-cutting trees along the easement, and evidence of their work was in clear view of the activists, but they went about their work undaunted deep into the afternoon, culminating in the finishing off of the cabin’s roof, complete with the traditional timber-framing ritual of “topping out” the cabin with an evergreen sprig. They ended the afternoon with a round of anti-pipeline songs by Sugar Shack members and musicians Tom Neilson and Lynn Waldron.
The cabin was originally built in Ashfield in March 2015, where it stood for six months in protest of the then-impending, now-defunct NED pipeline. Elwell says that though his original intention was to block the pipeline, which was slated to run through his friend Larry’s backyard, the cabin became a point of conversation, an educational tool, and a symbol for the community to galvanize around.
“I am trying to invoke Thoreau’s attitude,” Elwell said, “I want to raise the idea of conservation and civil disobedience. This is a symbol of our resistance and our resolve to stop this.” Elwell spent much of the past week researching building codes and enforcement mechanisms, and put the call out late in the week for a crew to help him move the cabin—placing it within the requisite 15 feet from all property lines—and to finish and top it out. A crew of twenty Sugar Shack activists answered the call.
The Connecticut Expansion Project, which runs across state-owned land, through protected wetlands, and over sacred Native American sites, has faced ongoing opposition in the last year through legal channels, public dissent, and, most recently, through acts of civil disobedience. Earlier this month 24 members of Sugar Shack were arrested in non-violent direct actions (NVDA) to stop construction.
Elwell and activists think that Thoreau would have been proud, pointing our that the transcendentalist asserted that citizens have not only the right to engage is civil disobedience but– in some situations– the imperative:
“If it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine[…] I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”
Contact: Bob Barba, 413-522-7537 or Abigail Ferla, 860-882-7510