Denton Police Nicely Arrested Six Protesting Texas' Ban on Fracking Bans

Now that Texas has passed a law that says cities can't ban fracking, it's a fitting middle finger to fracking bans that an energy company would get to work in Denton, the city where voters passed the historic regulation that started this all. Vantage Energy resumed drilling in Denton on Monday. While that sucks for all of the people in Denton who voted to pass the city's fracking ban, a small consolation prize is that the company has nothing but very kind words to say about the people who were protesting outside their operations this week. Six of the protesters have been arrested so far. 

"We recognize and appreciate the rights of all citizens to peacefully assemble and to express their opinions openly," Seth Urruty, Vantage's vice president of development, says in a prepared statement."We are grateful to the city of Denton Police Department for helping keep the protesters safe." The police department was keeping protesters safe, of course, from the well that Vantage Energy was going to drill no matter how many people nearby didn't want them too. 

Adam Briggle, Tara Hunter and Nicole Chochrek were arrested while sitting the company's site in protest on Monday. The protesters had decided ahead of time who would be willing to stay at the site after police arrived and risk arrest, Briggle says.

Even the police were nice about it. A photograph captured by the DesSmog Blog website shows a Denton police sergeant shaking hands with Briggle, a philosophy professor at UNT who has been a vocal activist in Denton throughout all of the fracking drama. "Before he arrested me he wanted to shake my hand in gratitude," Briggle says. "It just speaks to what a great community Denton is and what a great police force Denton has." The three were released from jail on personal recognizance bonds, meaning they won't have to pay bail as long as they show up to their court date. 

On Tuesday, the activists staged a second protest at the Vantage site, and three more people were arrested.  Elida Tamez, a self-described fat 55-year-old with cancer, was one of those arrested. "It takes a hell of a lot to get me off my couch but this did," says Tamez, who has lived in Denton since 1978. Her home is near several fracking wells, she says, though she doesn't believe that the drilling is related to her specific disease. 

When she arrived at the site Tuesday morning before 7 a.m., she saw work trucks already coming though. "It was just too much, so  I decided to stand there over the cattle guard and not let any trucks in," she says. More people followed. Police arrested Tamez and two others on Tuesday. Like the Monday group, they were released on personal recognizance bonds.  

"I can only tell you positive things about my experience with the Denton Police Department," Tamez says. "We were in jail maybe two hours." The protesters still face criminal trespassing charges. Why were the police so nice to the trespassing activists? Tamez's theory: "I think that they're decent human beings, and I also think that they must be aware that they are essentially enforcing trespassing laws against citizens who are trying to enforce a ban that was passed by us, so I think that they might recognize the double standard here." 
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Amy Martyn
Contact: Amy Martyn