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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Protesters spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Valero Memphis Refinery, organizing against the Diamond Pipeline. The Diamond Pipeline is a proposed crude oil pipeline that would run from Cushing, Oklahoma, through Arkansas, to the Memphis refinery. Twelve people were taken into custody at the protest, five for obstruction of highway passage and seven for disorderly conduct, criminal trespassing and obstruction of highway passage. Police identified those individuals as Amber Duvall, Seema Rasoul, Paul Garner, Robert Smith, Rachel Gay, Jessica Reznicek, Clay Ayers, Spencer Kaaz, Katherine Hanson, Olivia Ramirez, Erick Conner and Ruby Montoya. One of the protesters told WREG they’re hoping they can get the Army Corps of Engineers to rescind the permit and have an environmental impact statement to determine the necessity of the pipeline and what harm it could cause. However, Brad Leone, a representative for Plains All American Pipeline, said Diamond Pipeline, LLC has done the required environmental and cultural studies, and construction has already started. “Diamond Pipeline, LLC is committed to designing, constructing, operating and maintaining the Diamond Pipeline in a safe, reliable, and responsible manner,” he said in a statement. He said the pipeline will have safety features such as manufacturing that meets or exceeds standards, x-ray examination of welds during construction, constant monitoring and technology to detect leaks and other operational issues, and remotely operated valves that would make it faster to isolate pipeline segments if necessary.
The protester WREG talked to said this new pipeline isn’t needed, as there’s already extensive pipeline infrastructure in place in West Tennessee. The protester also said he wanted to raise awareness about the situation and for people to be more informed about natural resources issues. He estimated there were about 40 protesters at the Valero Memphis Refinery from Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee, but he added this protest was linked to other similar movements against pipelines across the country. The protester criticized the pipeline’s route through peoples’ private land. Leone said it would actually help communities it travels through because of the property tax revenue it would provide and the construction jobs it would create. Some protesters were sitting on the ground with their hands attached to 50-gallon barrels filled with concrete, some chained to one another, to make it hard for police to remove them from the area. Some protesters were telling people they’re not allowing some of the trucks to come fill up oil. The road was blocked off on Mallory Avenue near the refinery, and officers were on the scene to assess any threat to the public. The protest started to wrap up around 5:15 p.m. Memphis’ Coalition of Concerned Citizens said it stands in solidarity with Arkansas Rising, the anti-Diamond Pipeline group. In a statement, the coalition noted the threat pipelines pose to natural resources and said police violated first-amendment rights by arresting protesters and blocking the media. “We will not stop! We will ALWAYS resist,” the coalition said.