Texas great-grandmother arrested for trespassing on own property

Eleanor Fairchild was joined by actress Darryl Hannah to protest the Keystone XL pipeline on her ranch

Published October 8, 2012 5:49PM (EDT)

  (Wikimedia/Josh Lopez)
(Wikimedia/Josh Lopez)

Eleanor Fairchild, a 78-year-old great-grandmother, was arrested late last week for trespassing on her own land. Fairchild was standing in the path of bulldozers on her 300-acre ranch in Winnsboro, Texas -- the site of construction of the southern part of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Fairchild, joined by actress-turned-activist Darryl Hannah, threw her arms up in front of the machinery and proclaimed: "I don't want tar sands anywhere in the United States. I am mad. This land is my land ... it's about all of our country" but to little avail. Fairchild was arrested on eminent domain grounds.

As Nation of Change reported, however, the issue of eminent domain is especially complicated here. The government is allowed to seize private property with or without the owner's consent (although with fair compensation) in cases where a project is considered to be of public use or benefit.

A judge ruled that Keystone XL Pipeline owner, TransCanada, could be granted eminent domain (and hence the ability to arrest Fairchild on her own ranch when she refused to negotiate with the company).

The judge's ruling, based on the premise that the pipeline will carry common oil and is therefore of public use, remains contested in the eyes of environmentalists and activists. The multibillion-dollar project threatens water supplies and ecosystems, expands U.S. reliance on oil and promises to further line Koch brother pockets.

Fairchild, described by protest group Tar Sands Blockade as "feisty," faces trespassing charges, as does Hannah, who stood next to the Texas great-grandmother in protest last week.

A handful of protesters were also arrested in Texas in September for locking themselves to pipeline construction machinery. The activists were pepper-sprayed and tasered by police to force them to abandon the blockade.

Watch video of Fairchild and Hannah's protest (via YouTube):


By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

MORE FROM Natasha Lennard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Activism Darryl Hannah Eminent Domain Environment Environmentalism Keystone Xl Pipeline Texas