It’s 2008 now, and as we mark one decade of anarchist resistance to I-69, it’s clear that we’re entering the critical moment. We’ve always believed that we can defeat I-69, but if we’re to stop this road, we have to do it now.
I-69, an interstate highway 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 the Canadian border at Port Huron, through Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana, before ending in Laredo, Texas. 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) to enable increased trade between Canada, the USA and Latin America. 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, a few of whom have already signed contracts giving up their homes and lands under the threat of their land being seized by eminent domain.
Construction in Indiana is almost certainly set to begin late in the spring or early in the summer of this year. Over the course of 2007, construction on its connector roads in Latin America has continued or intensified, as has repression against those resisting it, while Canadian multinationals have begun considering investments in sections of I-69 in the American South. The Indiana Department of Transportation began evictions in earnest last summer, though the vast majority of families threatened by the road in Indiana are still on their land.
We are now confronted with a choice. We can organize to take a strong symbolic stand against all of this, to let the world know that what I-69 represents is wrong.
Or we can ask ourselves: What will it take to really stop this highway? And then act according to the answers we develop together, in our communities and in our affinity groups.
Because as I-69 comes closer to becoming a reality — as all the multinationals and other vultures line up to profit from the devastation — it can seem like the highway juggernaut is unstoppable. In reality, as it approaches this phase, it is more vulnerable than ever. Opposition has been building for a long while. All of the assembling bidders can still be scared off, and for the first time, there will be “progress” on the ground. If we choose to, we can impose a crisis on this entire project, an opportunity we don’t often have.
An invitation stands to develop your own autonomous and creative contributions to stopping I-69, or to participate in the collective organizing process initiated by Roadblock Earth First! (among others) at last September’s consulta in Evansville, Indiana. In either case, we recommend forming an affinity group with those you know and trust; getting to know the land, the history of the struggle, and the communities directly affected. And know that whatever path you choose, now’s the time to prepare for action.
Over the last decade, eco-radicals have worked hard to prepare the ground for this moment by building bridges between radicals and residents affected by the highway. The campaign against I-69 has used a variety of tactics to cultivate these connections, among them a “listening project” that allows for dialogue between radicals and others, a bike tour through the area that would be affected by I-69, and “road shows” along the route of I-69.
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 “Roadless Summer” campaign that focused on a variety of private companies including firms funding the project and Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).
INDOT has admitted that they lack full funding for the project. This lack of funding is a key weakness that can be exploited by 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. Anything that makes the project even more expensive makes its completion more difficult and unlikely — especially as government budgets now face recession-related cuts. Early disruptions in the construction process will throw a huge monkey wrench into the works. If I-69 can be stopped in Indiana, it could kill the whole project since many states are waiting to see how construction in Indiana proceeds.
With the very climate of the earth hanging in the balance, now isn’t the time to let the state and the multinationals sink billions of dollars into even-more highways to move ever more global trade.
For more info, check out stopi69.wordpress.com, earthfirstjournal.org or rootforce.org. Or write to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about organizing in your area.