Four Arrested In Pipeline Protest

Lucy Gellman PhotoFour protesters chained themselves together to block TD Bank’s doors at rush hour Tuesday and spread a Valentine’s Day message: If you love the environment, take your money elsewhere.

The demonstration took place beginning at 4:20 p.m. outside of TD Bank on Chapel Street downtown. It was part of a larger protest for which 50 or so New Haveners showed up, voicing their support for water protectors at North Dakota’s Standing Rock reservation a day after a federal judge denied a stay request from Native American Tribes trying to halt construction of the $3.7 billion, 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline.

This marks the latest of the local protesters’ divestment-geared efforts, which have included downtown rallies each month since October. 

Chanting “Water is life! Water is life!” and “Can’t drink oil/ Keep it in the soil!” protesters gathered outside of the bank branch, urging its parent corporation, TD Securities, to pull its $365 million investment from the pipeline project.

As several people streamed onto Chapel with homemade signs, they made way for a sort of human contraption: four protesters, accented with pink heart-shaped signs, who had chained themselves together.

As the four came closer to the bank’s doors, they displayed their mode of connection: chains between their hands and wrists, covered with PVC-like piping and duct tape to approximate the shape of a pipeline binding them together.

Smiling, members of the group — veteran New Haven peace activists Melinda Tuhus, Victorya McEvoy, Mark Colville, and a fourth person who declined to give his name — sat on the wet sidewalk directly outside the bank, scooting back against the glass doors in the afternoon chill.

“I’m comfortable here!” joked Tuhus, who remained relatively mum as a customer then opened the door on her back, stepping over her arm-pipe to get back onto the street. As he left, Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA) organizer John Lugo joined the group briefly, helping them chain the front doors of the bank. 

On the other side of Chapel Street, police had begun to gather, watching the protesters from the New Haven Green and the corner of College and Chapel streets. They crossed the street and looked on from the intersection of College and Chapel closest to the bank, waiting to see if the protesters would get up.

From inside the bank’s lobby, an employee (who would not talk to protesters or the press) held a phone to his ear, motioning outside. Another held out his phone, as if taking a photo or video.

An officer approached the door and removed the chain, allowing the protesters to stay until further notice. 

As police spoke to each other, members of the group explained that they hoped to accomplish two goals: to get the bank to divest from the pipeline, and to encourage current customers to join credit unions if it refuses to do so.

As they chanted and spoke, an officer stopped the flow of traffic on College Street and got use a microphone to offer three warnings to protesters in English and Spanish. Move, he said, or get arrested.

A police van had by then moved onto College Street, its doors opened. The four did not move.

As an officer issued the third warning, protesters began shouting over them, several lifting flags representing Native American tribes as they chanted. One, Edgar Sandoval, moved in closer to the protesters as if to protect them. He eyed officers who were preparing to move in.

A final warning was issued. Within seconds, officers lifted protesters—still chained together—up off of the sidewalk. Ushering free-standing protesters away, the officers moved the four to the College Street side of the bank, where they placed them on the ground and began to ask for identification.

Lt. Herb Sharp, the top patrol supervisor at the New Haven police department, directed the operation, turning a flurry of activity into an orderly police ballet. While four officers collected information from the group, a cadre of others formed a semi-circle around them, ordering reporters to stay at a distance.

The bulk of protesters outside of the bank continued to chant, lining the sidewalk as a few tried to glimpse at the cohort that had been arrested. McEvoy motioned to Attorney Patricia Kane, whom Sharp let though. Outside of the bank’s front doors, 350 Connecticut‘s Ben Martin lifted a megaphone to his lips, and kept the protest going.

Back with the four protesters, police maintained their semi-circle as Sharp spoke quietly to each of them about options, arrests, potential charges. Sharp charged the quartet with disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer, both misdemeanors.

Attorney Kane — who has publicly criticized how state police handled a Feb. 4 protest in New Haven — praised Sharp’s work Tuesday. She called it “a first-class operation in dealing with an act of civil disobedience” and said she “found his professionalism most encouraging.”

After 20 minutes and a court summons, the four were free to go. Walking down College Street towards Crown—and literally into the sunset—Colville said he viewed the action as a form of love for other people. “For Valentine’s Day!” he said.

Meanwhile, other protesters remained at the bank until close to 6 p.m. Police kept a block of Chapel Street closed across from the Green, forcing CT Transit buses to alter their route in jammed rush-hour traffic.

Returning to the corner with her arms unchained and unencumbered, McEvoy waved to the police and thanked them—then gave Sharp a squeeze on his shoulder. It was Valentine’s Day, after all.

Revived Project

The Dakota Access Pipeline is an underground oil pipeline backed by Dakota Access, LLC that will run, if completed, from North Dakota to southern Illinois. That path includes stretches beneath the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, as well as clean water sources and burial grounds around the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. For a map of conflicts across its 1,172 miles, click here

The company building the pipeline says that it is thoroughly monitored and shipping crude underground is far safer than doing so by rail, trucks, or in ships. Protesters and environmentalists have disagreed, citing concerns of contaminated drinking water and disrupting historic burial grounds.

Protests at Standing Rock stretch back to late April of 2016, when Native American tribes voiced near-unanimous opposition to the pipeline’s construction. New Haveners became involved in protests months later, in mid-October of last year. By then, protests had erupted on the national level to put pressure on the outgoing Obama administration to stop construction of the pipeline. That ended temporarily on Dec. 4 of last year, the outgoing Obama administration announced that it would not grant the final easement to the pipeline.

Then in late January, just four days after his inauguration, President Donald Trump reinstated construction of both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, adding a directive to halt environmental reviews that the Obama administration had ordered. On Monday Feb. 13, a judge backed that directive, ruling against Native American tribes.

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posted by: WestHavenBIcyclist on February 14, 2017  9:54pm

My wife and i were in town and visited the protest.  Glad to see intentional civil disobedience happening, and encouraged to see the correct and measured response from police.  This is what should have happened the other week.

“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”—Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

And under a corporate corrupt government that allows the destruction of our water, resources, and Native rights, the correct place to be for just citizens is in the streets and willing to symbolically break laws. 

Thoreau’s friend, who came to lock him up for that night in jail, had a similar demeanor to today’s NHPD.  That is the right approach. 

This is first amendment in action.  Our family grew too uncomfortable with the actions of corporate banks, and left Bank of America for Sikorsky Credit Union.  I hope the protesters took TD Bank customers out of their comfort zone a little and raised awareness of how we vote with our banking dollars.  There was certainly nothing threatening or aggressive about the protest. 

And I thank the protesters for their work and their voice.  You are teaching our children how to stand up for what is right.  This is a long term investment in creating a culture that cares for creation.  Your work has meaning at our family dinner table.  Bless you.

posted by: danagasta on February 15, 2017  12:31am

I’m really glad things went well. There’s still hope, so let’s keep going!—-Courtney

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 15, 2017  3:14am

It was Sweetheart Day on Chapel Street as well, where bull horned protesters cheered there great victory in raising $181 towards the legal fees of protesters arrested in earlier actions…..

Man, there were a lot of cops watching…....
I don’t quite get everything that is going on.

Besides that, I thought Patricia Kane was working pro bono…..

Bring me a philosophy instead of entitlement and I might be supportive.
Otherwise, it is a gross waste of human effort.

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 15, 2017  3:57am

Stop this protesting BS and put the energies into the community…...this is growing tired fast

posted by: Noteworthy on February 15, 2017  5:59am

Once again, protesters and co-conspirator Patricia Kane victimized and infringed on the rights of others over an issue that is not local, is not controlled locally and that is physically more than 1500 miles away. While the arrest was first class, the protesters were not. We enjoy freedom of speech in this country but it is bastardized and denigrated by these actions. You don’t win fans or empathy for your cause by alienating and hurting them.

posted by: Peter99 on February 15, 2017  6:31am

Amazing!!! The lawyer is there, the press is there, all to feed the publicity hounds demonstrating for their cause. We taxpayers, pay for the disruption to society by self serving people hawing a cause. The amount of money spent diverting police resources, interrupting bank business, delay of time to bank customers, and rerouting of traffic should be estimated. These people should be required to pay that amount of money along with court costs. They have the right to protest, but they should be required to pay for it. Sooner of later they are going to run afoul of a person having a bad day and someone is going to get hurt. There are a lot of people with personal problems and short tempers. Playing footsies with the New Haven Police is an entirely different thing that chaining a civilian who may have a short temper and a gun in a bank. It is not a question of if, just when it will happen.

posted by: robn on February 15, 2017  7:07am

The PVC pipe-on-the-Arm thing is called a lock down and it’s supposed to make it hard for police to remove protestors (without injuring them and possibly causing a lawsuit).

posted by: jim1 on February 15, 2017  7:38am

Nice article, nice people, and Wendy was there passing out gloves and hats.
The fight to protect our environment continues and so will these NV protests.  We expect many more to join us as spring approaches.

posted by: Ozzie on February 15, 2017  7:57am

These protesters are getting ridiculous , its about time the New Haven Police Department stops playing Mr. nice guy and starts inconveniencing the protesters, the way the protestors inconvience everyone else ! Downtown traffic was a mess for over an hour Chapel St. wesbound was blocked off at both Church St. and Temple St. , and College St. was blocked off southbound towards Chapel St making it a traffic nightmare.
    The protestors should have been put in the police wagon as soon as it pulled up and opened it’s doors and carted off to 1 Union Ave. They should have been put in the cell block and let them wait their turn at being processed, just like every other law breaker, instead of giving them a quick summons. Because now they will become even more brazen knowing that they won’t be sent to the detention facility   Lt. Sharp looks like a fool with that big smile on his face as if he’s saying that was fun wasn’t it. Enough is enough stop pandering these people.

posted by: Hamdenresident on February 15, 2017  8:24am

I am fully supportive of the goals of the demonstrators but they need to know that they caused a very dangerous delay, which could have been fatal, as I tried to get my husband through the center of New Haven to the Emergency Room at Yale New Haven Hospital.  There has to be a way of expressing these important opinions without jeopardizing the lives of others.

posted by: Massimo on February 15, 2017  8:47am

These dog shows have become so passe’ and predictable.

posted by: the1king on February 15, 2017  8:48am

enough already.  Do these people have a job.  I am so tired of these protest.  they are taking police resources away.  The organizations that do these protests should be sent a bill.

posted by: alphabravocharlie on February 15, 2017  9:39am

Lugo should have been arrested, again. Chaining a door shut is reckless endangerment and unlawful restraint.

posted by: Realmom21 on February 15, 2017  12:39pm

@Peter are you sure that protesters should pay for defending their rights? That is absurd. Should African Americans retro pay for having protets
  over the past 70 years to be treated as human beings to be treated as non colored Human beings were being treated, Should women pay to have a choices in what they choose to do with their bodies should we pay for the rights of those who are oppressed on a daily bases in this country? Oh thats right we have people paying for that already with their lives? its called our millitary we dont have to pay for trying to right wrongs any more so then those who were doing wrong have had to pay for their wrongs because if so we are still waiting for our 40 acres and a mule

posted by: Peter99 on February 15, 2017  1:31pm


Yes, they should pay dearly for chaining doors shut with people inside. They do not have a right to lock people in a bank. You are trying to obscure that fact with racist commentary. I did not see any black faces on those people who chained themselves to that door. You raise a smokescreen using slavery and abortion rights, because your argument is baseless. If they (the protesters) keep doing stupid, illegal and confrontational things somebody is eventually going to get hurt for no good reason.

posted by: Noteworthy on February 15, 2017  2:08pm

RealMom -

The rights of protesters only extend to the point where they directly infringe on the rights of others. The right to protest, to voice your opinion, freedom of speech is all great. Do it often. These people do not have the right to chain doors, block entrances, block traffic and hamper the free flow of ingress, egress and movement of others to go about their daily lives. In fact, it’s quite selfish actually. Trying to tie this protest with civil rights, the right to vote - is not on parity in either foundation or importance.

And yes, they should be held financially liable for the extra cost burden their protest is causing the City of New Haven taxpayers. Just add up all the manpower it took to make the arrests, crowd control, traffic patrol etc. - add up the hours and hourly billing rate. It’s an expensive fiasco.

posted by: Realmom21 on February 15, 2017  2:09pm

Peter that is the whole point this isnt about race this is about atrocities that have been corrected thru or are route to being corrected thru civil disobedience. perhaps you forget that it was illegal for a black person to sit in the front of a bus or to obstruct traffic walking abreast across a bridge or to sit in at a lunch counter. Or for women to to do many common sense things like own accounts property etc. it was thru civil disobedience that those wrongs were corrected just because something is legal today doesnt make it right in the long run. less you forget slavery was very legal! as was hanging black men because they looked at your woman! wait how much municipal and state aid was used to walk a child into a school because she was entitled to go to school but only after civil disobedience that included on the oppressors end locking, blocking school doors. Oh wait the national guard and state police, had to come in??? why did someone have to pay for that.. be careful what door you open

posted by: Melinda Tuhus on February 15, 2017  2:50pm

We took action because we’re facing both a justice emergency for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and a climate emergency, as every new oil and gas pipeline that goes operational is taking us past the tipping point of a 2 degree C warming (most experts think the tipping point is 1.5 degrees C) that would create a very different Earth.

I do agree with the posters who object to such a massive police presence for actions that are clearly non-violent. Why so many? And what would they be doing if not standing around at our protests? The gentleness with which we four white folks were treated also stands in marked contrast to how people of color and indigenous folks are often treated by law enforcement.

Just one small correction to Lucy Gellman’s story: we had no intention of “compelling” customers to switch to a local or regional bank or a credit union, and no ability to do that; rather we “encourage” customers to think about their options.

We focused on TD because the bank is clearly in violation of its own Code of Ethics, excerpted in our flyer:

“The Code of Conduct and Ethics (Code) establishes the standards that govern the way we deal with each other, our customers, shareholders, governments, regulators, suppliers, competitors, the media and the public at large.”

“TD will not condone, tolerate or ignore violence or threats of violence. Every employee, potential employee and director, as well as every customer, supplier or other person in a business relationship with TD must be treated with dignity and respect.  We are all responsible for treating others with dignity and respect. We must immediately report any harassing, discriminatory or violent conduct of which we are aware or suspect so that it may be properly addressed.”

TD continues to ignore multiple such reports. The violence being perpetrated against tribal members and allies at Standing Rock, North Dakota, with TD Securities funding, must stop now!

[ed: Thanks for the wording issue. All fixed.]

posted by: alphabravocharlie on February 15, 2017  2:59pm

Real mom 21- lynching was never legal in this country.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 15, 2017  3:49pm

posted by: alphabravocharlie on February 15, 2017 2:59pm

Real mom 21- lynching was never legal in this country.

Then explain this.

Lynch Law

By Ida B. Wells

“Lynch Law,” says the Virginia Lancet, “as known by that appellation, had its origin in 1780 in a combination of citizens of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, entered into for the purpose of suppressing a trained band of horsethieves and counterfeiters whose well concocted schemes had bidden defiance to the ordinary laws of the land, and whose success encouraged and emboldened them in their outrages upon the community. Col. Wm. Lynch drafted the constitution for this combination of citizens, and hence ‘Lynch Law’ has ever since been the name given to the summary infliction of punishment by private and unauthorized citizens.” This law continues in force to-day in some of the oldest states of the Union, where courts of justice have long been established, whose laws are executed by white Americans. It flourishes most largely in the states which foster the convict lease system, and is brought to bear mainly, against the Negro.

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 15, 2017  4:09pm

A little tip for these protesters, from the CT CONSTITUTION:

SEC. 4. Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty.

posted by: WestHavenBIcyclist on February 15, 2017  4:55pm

“posted by: Bill Saunders on February 15, 2017 4:09pm

A little tip for these protesters, from the CT CONSTITUTION:

SEC. 4. Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty.”
I’ll note your “little tip” sarcastic tone, and reply with my interpretation.
The court summons here for the four who locked down is that responsibility.  Fair and appropriate for a minor symbolic act.

The frankly outrageous “inciting to riot” charge against Mr. Clement and the literal death threats posted in the comments sections of not only the NHI articles but also literal death threats and calls for vigilante violence ON THE CT STATE POLICE FACEBOOK POST about the Frontage Road direct action are unconstitutional enforcements of that “responsibility.”

No oppression has ever been defeated in our nation without breaking of laws.  In the spirit of Dr. King, we should all strive to understand the reasons for these actions and support appropriate reactions from the state.

I support folks’ right to criticize protest tactics.  It’s a good thing to discuss.  But insulting these patriots, calling for vigilante justice, and chilling free speech with outlandish charges, canines, pepper spray, and exaggerated Facebook posts.

My wife and I had a very pleasant conversation with Mr. Clement yesterday.  He’s a fine human being and an important part of the fabric of our community. 

These people are trying to keep Long Wharf from going permanently underwater.  Think of THAT traffic tie-up.  Your children’s children will have to deal with it. 


posted by: alphabravocharlie on February 15, 2017  5:16pm

Threefifths- you’re not serious.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 15, 2017  9:10pm

posted by: alphabravocharlie on February 15, 2017 5:16pm

Threefifths- you’re not serious.

Check out the History.In fact do you know what the slave Codes were.