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Protests against controversial mine ‘derailed’ after activists’ links to anti-trans group emerge

Vic Parsons February 8, 2022
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Activists have cut ties with two men because they are transphobic

The sagebrush-covered mountains of Thacker Pass, where an open-pit lithium mine is planned. (Instagram/PeopleOfRedMountain)

Indigenous and environmental activists fighting the Thacker Pass mining project have cut ties with two men they discovered were part of an anti-trans group.

Will Falk and Max Wilbert had been protesting against Thacker Pass, in Nevada, alongside environmental and Indigenous activists. They were discovered to be from a group called Deep Green Resistance (DGR), a radical environmental group that wants to ban trans women from women’s bathrooms and refers to them as “people born male”.

Both men had reportedly made contact with local activists without disclosing their connection to DGR, and those who have now distanced themselves from Falk and Wilbert say they feel betrayed by the failure to acknowledge the link.

According to Politico, the discovery that DGR is involved has “blown up” the grassroots alliances that had been opposing the mine.

The Indigenous group People of Red Mountain, part of a coalition that is challenging the mine with a court case, severed ties with both men over DGR’s positions on trans and non-binary people. Falk had been acting as the lawyer in the case, leaving the group without legal representation.

People of Red Mountain spokesperson Gary McKinney Jr told the outlet that Wilbert and Falk left the group “between a rock and a hard place”.

“And it was over transphobia. That’s the first time I’ve heard that word,” McKinney said.

“The fact that we’re trying to tie ourselves into knots around this speaks to the real cost of having them involved,” said Kelly Fuller, of environmental group Western Watersheds Project, part of the coalition legally challenging the mine.

Ian Bigley, an environmental activist in Nevada, said that potential donors who would financially support efforts to stop the mining project are reluctant to be associated with DGR.

Bigley was told by Wilbert and Falk that they were from a group called Protect Thacker Pass – he only discovered their connection to DGR when he looked at the website, and saw the funding connection with DGR.

“I personally felt misled,” Bigley said. “It takes a lot to stop a mining corporation, and that’s not something that I’m interested in derailing.”

Falk has denied that he and Wilbert hid their involvement with DGR.

Thacker Pass activists cut ties with transphobic group

The Nevada mining project is known as Thacker Pass, and could be the largest lithium mine to be developed in the US. Once the project gets through the final stages of permits, lithium mined from Thacker Pass will fuel the batteries of electric cars across the US.

Environmental group and ranchers are taking the mining project to court, citing concerns that it will permanently drain or pollute the groundwater supply. They are joined by Indigenous activists, who say that Thacker Pass is on sacred land because their ancestors were massacred there in 1865 by the US Cavalry.

Lithium Americas, which is behind the Thacker Pass project, maintains that the mine will not have a significant negative environmental impact and that it will responsibly manage any tribal artifacts that may be uncovered during the construction and operation of the mine.

Wilbert has been accused of transphobia before: a book he co-wrote with the two co-founders of DGR, Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith, was rejected by a publisher in 2019 for being transphobic.

The trio then wrote an essay for a trans-exclusionary Canadian website called Feminist Current in 2019 about their book being rejected by a publisher who had asked them to “explain our ‘transphobia’.” Feminist Current’s editor, Meghan Murphy, currently banned from Twitter for hateful conduct and discrimination against trans Twitter users.

Wilbert’s book was eventually published in March 2021, two months after he and Falk set up their protest camp at Thacker Pass.

The People of Red Mountain protest camp at Thacker Pass has now been dismantled.

The group recently shared, in an Instagram post, that: “People of Red Mountain have been doing well and are working on organising in new ways.”

PinkNews contacted Falk, Wilbert and DGR for comment.

More: environmentalism

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