From Green Right Now Reports

Tar Sands Blockade tree house occupants are protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, part of a series of civil disobedience actions in East Texas. (Photo: Laura Borealis).

Keystone XL pipeline protesters braced for a showdown with construction crews today in East Texas, where at least 8 protesters have been encamped since Monday in a ‘tree village’ built to block the path of the pipeline.

The Tar Sands Blockade protesters have been thwarting the progress of the pipeline through East Texas  by locking themselves to equipment or sitting in front of tree-clearing machinery. They’ve slowed work crews at various points along the southern segment of Keystone XL, between Cushing, Okla., and  Port Arthur, Texas.

On Tuesday, two protesters locked themselves to tree-felling equipment at the site of the tree village near Winnsboro to assist their fellow protesters in the tree houses. But local police pepper sprayed the two, placed them in chokeholds and tasered them, according to Tar Sands Blockade news releases. The two were later removed and arrested.

The incident prompted environmentalist Bill McKibben to tweet: “It’s really not okay to use tasers on completely peaceful, not to mention handcuffed, civil disobedience protesters.”

Rainforest Action Network, which also opposes the pipeline on environmental grounds, fired off a letter to followers:

On Monday, eight brave people climbed trees on private land in Texas to block construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline and protect their homes. On Tuesday, two peaceful protesters, Shannon Beebe and Benjamin Franklin, locked themselves to TransCanada’s machinery in support of the tree-sit, delaying work on the pipeline for most of the day. Here’s how our allies on the ground in Texas described what happened to Shannon and Benjamin (warning: it’s pretty horrifying):

The most physically aggressive was the ranking officer, a Lieutenant with the Wood County Sheriff Department under the observation of TransCanada employees. He twisted and contorted the tube that [Shannon] Beebe and Franklin had locked their arms into, cutting off circulation to their hands and cutting abrasions into their hands and forearms.

Franklin and Bebe then describe pepper spray as the most painful part of their ordeal. Police sprayed into their lockdown tube, and the chemicals burned their already-open wounds.

RAN (RAN.org) urged its supporters to call Russ Girling, CEO of TransCanada, the pipeline operator, to protest the violence.

Franklin and Bebe described the pain of the tasering as almost unbearable.

Against that backdrop, the blockade enters Day 5, with pipeline work crews having cleared trees to within 20 feet of the Tar Sands Blockade tree houses, set high in the piney woods.

The rough treatment of the protesters has angered and built resolve among the blockaders.

“TransCanada is treating us as poorly as they are treating the landowners and the land itself,” said Cody Rose, one of the tree house occupiers, seated on a timber scaffolding high in the trees.

“They have complete disregard for our lives, the safety of our friends and neighbors, not to mention the future of a livable planet.”

The Tar Sands Blockade includes a diverse group of people, which includes those fighting for climate justice to stop the flow of “dirty” tar sands oil and those who’re protesting the eminent domain seizure of property for the pipeline.

TransCanada’s plans call for a 1,700 mile pipeline to carry diluted bitumen from tar sands mines in Alberta to refineries near Houston. The company has clearance to complete the 485-mile southern leg first, while awaiting permitting to bring the pipeline over the Canada-U.S. border in Montana and through the Plains. Protests in Nebraska continue to stall its progress through that state.