Sleeping dragon

Virginia State Police removed this “sleeping dragon” device from pipeline protester Emily Satterwhite on Thursday. A protester inserts their arms into each end of the device and then chains their hands together inside the device.

A Blacksburg woman was released on bond late Thursday after being arrested at the end of a 14-hour protest that impeded construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Montgomery County.

Emily Satterwhite, 46, was charged with two misdemeanors: trespassing and entering Mountain Valley’s property with the intent to damage, according to a news release from Virginia State Police.

The standoff began when Satterwhite locked herself to a piece of excavating equipment that was parked on a strip of cleared land where the controversial natural gas pipeline will cross over Brush Mountain.

State police responded to the scene at 7:43 a.m., but it took all day to bring Satterwhite down from the boom of the excavator, where she had positioned herself about 20 feet off the ground.

Further complicating her removal was the fact that Satterwhite had placed her arms into a lockbox device, known as a “sleeping dragon,” that was attached to a hydraulic piston on the excavator.

A sleeping dragon is an elbow-shaped piece of pipe. A protester inserts their arms into each end and then chains their hands together inside the device, complicating efforts to remove the person from whatever they have attached themselves to.

State police officers with special training in the safe removal of such devices were able to free Satterwhite and bring her back to the ground using a cherry picker that had been dispatched to the scene.

After being checked by a physician who was standing by, Satterwhite was taken in handcuffs to the county magistrate’s office, where she was later released on bond. A hearing has been scheduled for July 13.

Satterwhite, who teaches Appalachian studies at Virginia Tech, has previously been active in protests by pipeline opponents, who say the project will leave lasting environmental damage to pristine lands and waters.

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Laurence Hammack covers environmental issues, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and business and enterprise stories. He has been a reporter for The Roanoke Times for more than three decades.

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