The New York Times Got It Wrong With the Tar Sands Blockade

Flickr Photo by Tar Sands Blockade

Written by Alexandra Mara

The Tar Sands Blockade has been resisting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline by the multinational corporation TransCanada for over twenty days now. The Blockade was recently featured in the pages of the New York Times.

Alexandra Mara wrote a letter to the New York Times originally published at the blog, Documenting Resistance. The letter to the newspaper is republished with permission here at The Dissenter.


Dear New York Times,

This letter is in regards to the article you published today on the Texas Tar Sands written by Dan Frosch (“Last-Ditch Bid in Texas to Try to Stop Oil Pipeline,” October 12, 2012).

Mr. Frosch’s portrayal of the blockade, activists’ efforts to stop the pipeline, and the depiction of TransCanada are misleading. The story is missing facts. I was with the NYT reporter Dan Frosh on October 9th and 10th when he visited the Tar Sands blockade in Winnsboro,TX. My partner and I were doing independent media at the same time and same place.

First, Mr. Frosch failed to mention that he and a NYT photographer were detained and handcuffed while covering the story, allegedly for passing an “arbitrary boundary” stipulated by TransCanada. I was there immediately after they were released. The detention and handcuffing of the NYT reporters is significant because there has been serious media censorship and repression surrounding the Keystone XL Pipeline blockade.

I first met Mr. Frosch the night of October 9th. On that evening, two livestream bloggers who were in the tree sit, Elizabeth Ace and Lorenzo Serano, were arrested despite the fact that they held official press passes. This fact does not appear in the NYT feature.

Also, Mr. Frosch neglected to mention that the media boundary mysteriously and arbitrarily moved back sixty feet on October 10th, the day after we covered the livestreamers descending from the trees. The new boundary can only be interpreted as a media censorship tactic used by police and the TransCanada security firm–now indistinguishable units. It is is currently impossible to see the actions going on at the blockade. The media is now pushed back so far, that Mr. Frosch’s own photographer struggled to get a decent shot of the tree sitters.

Furthermore and more importantly, the picture that Mr. Frosch painted of the protesters is minimizing and inaccurate. Was he not informed that there is a dedicated group of over twenty individuals, not including the current tree sitters pushing the campaign? This group provides critical jail support, medical care, and functions as a media team.

Mr. Frosh’s article told a story of a benevolent company who conducted business in a respectful, consensual manner, while portraying the protesters as reckless people endangering their own lives. The piece does not explain why this direct action of blockading is necessary, nor any of the other tactics employed by activists fighting the pipeline. The article only positions the blockade action as a “last ditch attempt,” instead of one of many strategic measures necessary to protect the environment. There was no information regarding the company’s history, their ruthless use of eminent domain or the dangers posed by the pipeline. The article lacks research and critical information on this subject. For more information on the Tar Sands please see resources such as the Green Peace report issued “Dirty Oil: How the Tar Sands are Fueling the Global Climate Crisis.”

The Tar Sands blockade in Texas, deserves a far better story than it has been given by the New York Times and Dan Frosch. This struggle, not to mention NYT readers, are entitled to the full story, not a poorly-researched short article printed with half the facts and omitting key events. Once again, without media access to the blockade, protesters will remain unprotected and at the mercy of TransCanada and the Texas police force paid by them. The NYT has failed to do their part as unbiased independent media; this was hardly “all the news thats fit to print.”


Alexandra Mara

P.S. One last question, why did you run Brandon Thibodeaux’s flat photo of the tree sit, instead of the technically better and more visually interesting photos by Laura Borealis that were given to you? (photo shown below)

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