Duff Benjamin picked up her forest name supplying Julia Butterfly Hill when she lived in a tree in Humboldt County. She later joined the Raging Grannies of Madison, playing washboard and singing satirical lyrics set to traditional songs during protests against Wisconsin’s then-Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to limit collective bargaining.
More recently, Benjamin attended a workshop by Appalachians Against Pipelines, an anti-pipeline organization that grew out of the mountaintop removal coal mining protests of the early 2000s. She began visiting the Yellow Finch tree sits and support camp.
On Friday, September 27, 2019, the 75-year-old Benjamin locked down to equipment at an MVP construction site on Cove Hollow Rd, near the tree sits outside of Elliston.
Four months later, I sat in a Christiansburg courtroom and watched as she pleaded not guilty to a charge of trespassing, but acknowledged the evidence against her would be enough to return a conviction. In return, she received a $200 fine that would be suspended on the conditions that she keep at least 100 yards away from the pipeline and its construction sites and that she not harass MVP employees or contractors.
Benjamin meekly nodded her head as the judge ruled. But a few minutes later, as she walked out of the courtroom, she grinned like the cat that ate the canary.