SMITH COUNTY (KYTX) -- Three people were arrested Monday night--accused of crawling inside an unfinished section of the TransCanada Gulf Coast extension pipeline and refusing to leave. It happened in northeastern Smith County just outside Winona.
A large group of around fifty protesters lined County Road 363 Monday morning.
"Two blockaders had actually attempted to seal themselves in the existing pipeline," Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson Ron Seifert said.
CBS 19 later learned it was actually three of them. They were curled up inside the three-foot diameter pipe and locked to 600 pound barrels of concrete.
"This was an unprecedented tactic to stop a pipeline in construction," Seifert said.
Protester Elizabeth Chiaravalli was there because she watched what happened when a pipeline leaked in Michigan.
"TransCanada cares about money more than people," Chiaravalli said. "So these people [who live here], if something God forbid were to happen to the pipeline, their families would be sick quickly."
She and others got upset when they watched sheriff's deputies begin pulling the first of the concrete barrels out of the pipeline.
"You are going to kill somebody right now!" the protesters yelled in unison.
Shortly thereafter the blockaders were forcibly removed from the pipeline.
"The way they removed people from the pipe was extremely dangerous," Chiaravalli said. "I don't know if you can imagine your arm locked inside a 600 pound 55-gallon drum, but if it goes drum versus person, we all know who's going to win."
"We sent our deputies up into the pipeline, pulled them out and three of them have been charged with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest," Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith said.
Smith said it was all by the book and never dangerous.
"We really didn't treat them any different than we do anyone else," he said.
Protesters say that may be. But after deputies made a makeshift wall of trucks that blocked most views of the extraction, the protesters were left wondering.
"It's disappointing that they were extracted as soon as they were," Seifert said. "However what's more disappointing is the way it was handled. "
TransCanada issued the following statement:
Our first concern is always for the safety of our workers, law enforcement and even the protestors. These types of actions are putting many people's health and safety at risk and we hope that people will reconsider what they are doing before someone is hurt.
It is unfortunate these protestors are trying to keep thousands of Americans from the jobs they depend on to provide for their families. This project is important not only to thousands of workers but also to Americans in general.
This project is about supplying Canadian and American oil to U.S. refineries, pushing out more expensive crude oil from foreign regimes that do not support American values of freedom and common sense - Libya, Venezuela and the Middle East. It is an important component of an "all of the above" American energy security that President Obama and others have articulated.
Workers were able to get back to work by around 1:00 Monday afternoon.
Isabel Brooks, Glen Collins and Matt Almonte are all charged with illegal dumping, criminal trespassing and resisting arrest.