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Earlier this year, Carling Sothoron and Heather Doyle, two activists associated with SEED (Stopping Extraction and Exports Destruction), took action to support people living in Cove Point, along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay in southern Maryland, Piscataway territory. This small, rural community is being threatened by Dominion, a large energy company that is building a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility to send gas produced by hydraulic fracturing along the Marcellus Shale for consumption across the globe. Carling and Heather wanted to draw attention to the issues of dangerous LNG exports, potential hydraulic fracturing in Western Maryland, and the likely catastrophic and chronic health effects of this facility on the people of Cove Point. They climbed onto a crane during a chilly morning in February on one of the export terminal’s construction sites and completed a successful crane sit and banner drop in protest of Dominion’s plans and against the extractive fracked gas industry that is impacting rural communities across the mid-Atlantic. During the extraction and arrest, both Carling and Heather, who are expert climbers, experienced an unsafe extraction by the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office and Heather was assaulted during her arrest.
Both activists pled guilty to misdemeanor trespass charges in April. Carling is serving a three-year probation and was ordered to pay a $500 fine. Heather served a 40-day sentence in the Calvert County Detention Center. After their legal proceedings were concluded, Carling and Heather filed formal complaints with the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office about their mistreatment by the Calvert County officers. The Sheriff’s Office has responded to the complaints by charging both Carling and Heather with misdemeanor false statement to an officer. The sentencing guidelines for this new charge recommends a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. In the next few months, both Carling and Heather are preparing to go to trial to defend themselves against this attempt by the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office to silence activists and retaliate against people who are resisting the construction of this Dominion LNG export facility.
These new charges are a part of a larger pattern of intimidation and excessive force against people protesting Dominion’s plans for Cove Point. The Calvert County Sheriff’s Office is being paid by Dominion to act as a private security force and to suppress opposition of the project within Calvert County. Some of their tactics include extremely long probationary periods for people who were otherwise willing to serve jail sentences and harassment including suspicious vehicle searches for people commuting to peaceful protests. The Calvert County Sheriffs in their official duties and separately as contracted security officers for the corporation, are doing Dominion’s dirty work in suppressing people willing to put themselves on the line to defend the community of Cove Point.
Carling and Heather acknowledge that the police violence they experienced was a direct result of the intentional political protest they were involved in and understand that their experience with the criminal justice system does not reflect how Black, Brown, and poor folks are treated by the justice system in Calvert County and throughout the US. They recognize that their ability to challenge the charges against them is greatly influenced by their privileges and the resources and support they have and will continue to receive.
SEED believes it is extremely important to stand up to these ugly tactics designed to distract us, exhaust our resources and our resolve, and that is why we are asking for your support. By fighting these charges we are committing to supporting the impacted community of Cove Point and to challenging the way the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office has responded to activists. We won’t back down. This work takes money, which is why we need your help. SEED fundraises for anticipated legal fees associated with our actions but these charges require additional resources.
We are immensely grateful for any amount you can give! Please share our story and amplify our message. If you can support this effort in a non-monetary way (such as hosting a fundraising event), please be in touch. Alternatively, if you are interested, in exchange for donations, SEED also would be happy to offer workshops about direct action or the fight at Cove Point. Have an idea for how we can work together? Contact us!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!