On Monday, June 23rd at 1:30 PM the Kalamazoo residents opposed to I-69 visited the DLZ Corporation in Kalamazoo for an office demonstration. They entered the building prepared to read a statement but were instantly harassed by an employee. He screamed obscenities, shoved the woman reading the prepared statement, and insisted that there was no office manager or anyone to discuss the impact of I-69 with. The Kalamazoo residents opposed to I-69 marched through the office with drums and whistles and exited the building.
The office seemed to instantly be aware that they were being protested. They did not want to talk or hear a word of what the residents had to say. The following letter was left on several desks and at the main desk:
Dear Kalamazoo Neighbors,
We are writing to inform you of something that is of great importance. Though you maybe unaware of this, your current place of employment, DLZ is in league with some very dark and disturbing things that are happening to the world we live in. You might be aware of the fact that DLZ is one of many companies that is helping in the formation of highway development in Indiana, the extension of Interstate-69. Now though this may seem to be “Business as Usual” or “Just another development in a long line”, this particular project is so much worse.
Interstate-69 is part of a massive undertaking that is spreading across states, countries, and indeed continents. It has been talked about for decades and gone under many different names. The NAFTA Super Highway, the North American Corridor, and Plan Puebla Panama are only a few.This expressway is a small part in the globalization of our world. To explain this further, jobs here at home are being moved across borders, the products of which will be shipped here, via I-69, to those currently unemployed. These jobs of course are going to be exploiting the global South. Not only will this further harm some of the most super-exploited people on Earth, but miles upon miles of forests, wetlands, farms, and homes will be destroyed and/or displaced from the construction of this expressway.
Between jobs going over borders, products being shipped in, farms being destroyed and the utter destruction of the natural world here at home and abroad, it seems obvious to those of us in Kalamazoo that the completion of this expressway is an atrocious, repugnant act. It is opposed by those in its line of destruction, those in other countries, and now by us in Kalamazoo.
It is with this in mind that we write you. We want you to be aware of the fact that what DLZ is doing is wrong and under the watch of people throughout the country, and the world at large. Rather than just bear witness to this injustice, we demand that this project be stopped and that it be discarded. We stand in Solidarity with our brothers and sisters who will lose jobs because of this. We stand in Solidarity with those whose homes are being destroyed. We stand in Solidarity with those who are being exploited in Central and South America. We stand in Solidarity with the farmers who will now be putting down their tools and who will be left in the gutters of development because of the actions of DLZ.
We as residents of Kalamazoo, as friends, as neighbors, and acquaintances of yours demand that YOU stop this highway.
For the Animals, for the Earth and for the people, River City Animal Defense League presents: Operation Road Rage.
First Target: Gohmann Asphalt and Construction, Inc.
Gohmann Asphalt and Construction, Inc. is a disgusting company that has decided to proceed with business in the construction of Interstate-69 (I-69) which is the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) superhighway.
Since River City Animal Defense League’s public debut on May 19th, 2008 when we took to the neighborhoods, and more specifically the houses of executives and contractors of Gohmann Asphalt and Construction, Inc. the fight has continued against Gohmann Asphalt and Construction until they drop I-69. Home demos, office demos, office lock-downs and flooding their phone lines are some of the actions that have been taken against Gohmann Asphalt and Construction.
River City Animal Defense League is calling on everyone across the Turtle Island and around the world to do what you can to take action against Gohmann Asphalt and Construction, Inc. and stop I-69.
Flood their phones! Flood their faxes!
River City Animal Defense League is calling for planned weekly phone and fax flooding against Gohmann Asphalt and Construction, Inc.
Begin flooding their lines at the end of their work day starting at 4PM Eastern Standard Time / 1PM Pacific Standard Time until their offices close. Never let them rest. Never let them forget that we will never back down and we will stop this road.
Thursday, July 3rd: Wish Gohmann Asphalt & Construction, Inc. the worst 4th of July (the so called Independence Day of the stolen lands known as the United States of America) of their lives.
Friday, July 11th: Keep calling. Keep faxing. Don’t let them go home happy for the weekend. No rest for the wicked!
Friday, July 18th: Flood their faxes! Flood their phones! We will never let Gohmann Asphalt and Construction build this road!
Friday, July 25th: For the animals we will fight! Gohmann A & C we know where you sleep at night! We will never back down until you drop I-69!
Starting Thursday, July 3rd, 2008 at 4PM Eastern Time / 1 PM Pacific Time let the flooding begin until Gohmann Asphalt & Construction drops I-69!
Back in November, Mediamouse.org published an article on the construction of I-69 in Indiana and its relationship to environmental destruction and global trade. While there has been ongoing organizing against the highway for years, it has been difficult for people outside of Indiana to plug into the organizing. However, in honor of Earth Day, activists organizing against the highway in Indiana have issued a call for a people outside of Indiana to participate in a phone action:
“The Bulldozers have arrived!
Clearing has begun in preparation for the construction of I-69, the NAFTA superhighway, in Southern Indiana. Under contracts totaling more than $25.3 million from the Indiana Department of Transportation, Gohmann Asphalt and Construction of Clarksville, Indiana has demolished homes and trees along the first 1.77 miles of the proposed mega-highway, and will soon begin the actual road construction. This is the same Gohmann Asphalt and Construction that was fined $8.2 million this past December for defrauding the public with false asphalt density tests on road projects.
This Earth Day, April 22nd, Please take the time to call Gohmann at (812) 282-1349 and politely ask them why they are accepting the state’s blood money to build a highway that 70% of Indiana residents don’t want – according to INDOT’s own research! Or fax them at (812) 288-2168 and remind them of the 400 families, 5,300 acres of farmland, 1,510 acres of forest, 400 acres of unique underground karst features, and 95 acres of wetlands that will be lost to this gigantic government pork project. If the phone at Gohmann is busy, try calling the Indiana Department of Transportation at (317) 232-5533 and question their wisdom at spending $3.5 billion to reduce travel times between Evansville and Indianapolis by a mere 10-15 minutes. Of course, they might tell you about the need to provide multi-national corporations a more cost-effective way to move goods and capital throughout the continent, and allow them to cheaply exploit the natural resources of Latin America with a network of massive infrastructure projects of which I-69 is only the first step.
On March 11, construction began on I-69, a controversial highway construction project in Indiana. I-69 has drawn opposition from citizen groups ranging from radical environmentalists to displaced homeowners. While no homes have been destroyed yet according to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), several trees have been cut based on this video posted on YouTube and reports from Indiana:
1) The new road in Indiana, in the latest estimate(April 2007), will cost over $3.5 billion, a price which will only go up with the rising cost of oil.
2) The state currently has only $750 million earmarked for I-69 construction, a fact that leads many to the conclusion that the state will reinstate the idea
of a toll road.
3) Over 400 families will be evicted from their homes along the 142 miles route in Indiana alone (this number excludes families evicted in other states).
4) 7 ,000 acres of land will be paved over by construction of the new-terrain I-69 and related development: 5,300 acres of farmland, 1,510 acres of forestland, and 95 acres of wetlands. At least 400 acres of land containing karst features (caves, sinkholes, underground streams) will be damaged or disturbed.
5) The Dept. of Transportation’s own study shows that over 70% of people in Indiana oppose the new road, while an independent study places that
number in the 90’s, yet the governor is still pushing the project. Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2008.
6) The proposed I-69 route in southwest Indiana will only save 10-14 minutes on a trip to Indianapolis in comparison to current routes.
7) The proposed highway, being part of a huge free trade infrastructure plan, will bring thousands of new trucks and cars through southwest Indiana each
day, further increasing air, land, and water pollution in an already heavily polluted region.
8) I-69 cannot bring big industry to southwest Indiana, as its supporters claim, because most counties in the area are already in non-attainment of Federal
Clean Air Act laws. There’s no guarantee of distribution centers either, because hundreds of other cities along the route provide lucrative locations.
9) I-69 already exists from the Michigan/Canada border to Indianapolis, and serves as a major artery for international free trade between the U.S. and
10) I-69 is part of the “NAFTA Superhighway” plan, which includes similar infrastructure projects in South America (IIRSA), Central America and
Mexico (Plan Puebla-Panama), and Canada (Atlantica). It is meant to provide multi-national corporations a more cost-effective way to move goods and
capital throughout each country, not to mention allowing them to cheaply exploit the natural resources of Latin America.
Additionally, on April 9, the Bloom Collective here in Grand Rapids will host a presentation by Root Force a group that looks at the relationship between infrastructure development, globalization, and colonialism. The presentation is scheduled for 7:00pm at the Bloom Collective, 1134 Wealthy Street SE.
In Indiana, a planned expansion of I-69–which already runs through Michigan–is meeting increased opposition from groups ranging from environmental radicals to farmers whose land might be taken from them. While the expansion has been opposed consistently over the past fifteen years, an interesting alliance between diverse movements is forming.
I-69, an interstate that currently runs from Port Huron, Michigan to Indianapolis, Indiana, has been facing a fifteen-year battle to expand in Indiana. According to overall plans for the highway, it would eventually run from Port Huron, through Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana, before ending in Laredo, Texas. However, the highway has never been completed, in large part due to widespread opposition to its construction in Indiana.
In Indiana, the highway would run from Evansville to Indianapolis along a 142-mile route. That route–the majority of which is “new terrain” and not built over an existing road–would cut through farmland and a wildlife preserve while paving some 5,000 acres of farmland, 1,500 acres of forest, and 3,000 acres of wetlands. The highway is expected to evict 400 families, many of whom have already signed contracts giving up their homes and lands under the threat of their land being seized by eminent domain.
The I-69 project has been opposed by a wide variety of groups including Road Block Earth First!, COUNT US!, Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads, Students Mobilizing against State-planned Highway I-69, and Protect our Woods in Indiana, as well as groups in the surrounding states. Over the years a variety of tactics have been used to oppose the plan, including the usual lawsuits, petitions, public education campaigns, studies, city resolutions against I-69, and protests. However, the campaign against I-69 has been interesting in that it has brought together many diverse perspectives, from anti-civilization radicals to farmers who will be displaced by the highway project. Those organizing against I-69 have setup an “I-69 News Clearing House” website and have announced plans for continued organizing as the project moves into the construction phase in the summer.
Far from just being isolated to radical environmental activists, direct action tactics have been adopted by portions of the broader movement against the highway. Roadblock Earth First! summarized this resistance stating:
“Resistance has been ongoing in Indiana from local farmers, including those being forced off their land by the department of transportation, and city folk in Indianapolis, Bloomington, Oakland City, Evansville, and elsewhere. This has included such things as letter writing, petitions, angry speeches at public hearings, and survey stake pulling. In addition, Earth First! Activists have stepped up their campaign of protests, office and home demonstrations, public meeting disruptions and anti-surveying actions. After the Earth First! Rendezvous in southern Indiana this summer, activists “evicted” the section 1 (Oakland City, IN) and section 2 (Petersburg, IN) planning offices by dressing as a moving crew, picking up office materials and furniture, and dumping them on the sidewalk.
Recently there was an I-69 public meeting on grants for community groups and businesses to ease the transition to having a huge loud interstate plowing through their countryside. Local activists and community members manage to completely shut down the meeting by shouting, holding banners, and taking over the microphone. INDOT never got past introductions. Later they announced that there will not be another public I-69 meeting in the city of Bloomington.”
This bridge between radicals and residents affected by the highway is interesting, and has been the result of intensive organizing by Earth First! and other opponents of I-69. Earth First! has organized a variety of tactics to cultivate these connections, among them a “listening project” that allows for dialog between radicals and others, a bike tour through the area that would be effected by I-69, and “road shows” along the route of I-69. In addition to taking place along the route of I-69, “road shows” have been held in surrounding states to teach about the highway and to encourage people to get involved, with presentations in Columbus, Houston, and even Kalamazoo to talk about the project and resistance to it.
While resistance to I-69 has been strong for the past fifteen years, direct action tactics have become more common since 2005. That year resistance to the project increased, with a “Road-less Summer” campaign that focused on a variety of targets including firms funding the project and Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), culminating with an admission from INDOT that they lacked the funding for the project. This lack of funding is believed to be a key weakness by many radicals organizing against I-69. With an estimated cost of $4.5 billion dollars but only $700 million to fund the road actually on hand, the state of Indiana has turned to unpopular measures to try to fund the road including privatizing it and making it a toll road. Radicals believe that while INDOT is trying to push the project through in order to minimize resistance, with rising costs–whenever the project is “reevaluated” the cost increases–that the project is vulnerable. Earth First! believes that with early disruptions in the construction process they might be able to stop. Moreover, they believe that stopping I-69 in Indiana might stop it altogether, as many states are waiting to see how Indiana proceeds.
Organizing will continue over the next several months, with that resistance continuing to build as the construction–which is scheduled to begin in 2008–nears. In September a nationwide meeting was held in Indiana to discuss plans against I-69 and a call has been issued for activists to come to Indiana in the spring of 2008 to participate in a multi-faceted campaign aimed at stopping the road by direct action using a range of tactics. I-69 opponents have even produced a video calling for people to come to Indiana:
Earth First! also places the construction of I-69 in Indiana into a larger context of road development and global infrastructure in the Americas. They argue that I-69 is part of an infrastructure project that is designed to facilitate the transportation of goods under free trade agreements and globalization. While in rightwing circles this has led to conspiracy theories about the “North American Union” creating a one-government state consisting of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, the proposed I-69 route does fit into a larger system of development and globalization. At the US-Mexico border I-69 is designed to connect to a network of highways, railroads, and other infrastructure projects being built as part of Plan Puebla Panama (PPP). Activists have argued that in addition to being part of an overall infrastructure that prioritizes the movement of capital and goods that when farmers are removed from their land in Indiana it will make way for factory farmers and a corporate form of agriculture. This argument echoes those made in Mexico, where indigenous opponents to the PPP have said that the project threatens their way of life.
By connecting I-69 to this context, radicals with Earth First! and others hope that stopping I-69 will become a priority in the environmental and anti-globalization movement, as well as serving as a catalyst project that will bring people together across the Midwest, raise important issues about the realities of modern capitalism, and give the movement a much needed victory. Moreover, rooting resistance to I-69 in a larger North American context allows the U.S. movement to learn from tactics and strategies employed elsewhere as well as engage in acts of solidarity that promote cross-border resistance.