May 15, 2016 — An estimated 1,500 activists from across the Northwest gathered at the site of two oil refineries in Washington state demanding action to combat climate change. The two-day blockade of the railroad tracks leading to the Shell and Tesaro refineries in Anacortes began on Friday. Hundreds of activists indicated they are willing to risk arrest and engage in peaceful civil disobedience to push for a just transition toward a more sustainable economy. Fifty-two were arrested on Sunday morning. Similar future actions are inevitable.
“Washington state jobs and lives are already at risk, with all the crazy wildfires we’ve had, with the problem with the salmon runs and the oysters,” Break Free Pacific Northwest organizer Emily Johnston explained to Jillian Raftery of KIRO radio. “People are definitely waking up to the fact that (climate change) is a real and local issue.”
“Anacortes, like other refinery towns, is a place that is economically dependent on fossil fuel jobs. You know, a lot of those are good jobs – they’re union jobs, they’re family wage jobs. So nobody wants to see that kind of work go away and not be replaced by something – also not have it be a really rational and careful transition” .
“And those workers are all invited to participate in the weekend’s events, which will include workshops and discussions to educate anyone who wants to know more, and arm activists with information to be part of the climate fight” said Johnston.
The actions in Anacortes are part of the growing global resistance calling on people to break free from dependence on oil, coal and gas. So far, Break Free events have busted out in Germany, Brazil, Ecuador, South Africa, and British Columbia, as well as New York and California.
A Lummi ceremony, community workshops, kayaktivist workshops, floatillas, and a three-mile march near Anacortes along the shores of Fidalgo Bay past the Tesoro and Shell refineries were among the events that continued through Sunday.
According to the Skagit Valley Herald, “Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was among those at the rally on Friday getting kayak training from Kurtis Dengler and Jade Summers of Mosquito Fleet, which formed after the ShellNo campaign in Seattle”.
Phuong Le, Associated Press, 5/14/16:
In Washington state, organizers are targeting two refineries that are among the top sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. An environmental review is currently underway for a proposed oil-by-rail project at the Shell Puget Sound Refinery. Shell wants to build an unloading facility and a rail spur from existing tracks to handle about 60,000 barrels of crude oil a day delivered by train.
Many of the nearly 40 groups involved in organizing the Break Free Pacific Northwest event were also involved in large on-water kayak protests against Shell’s Arctic oil drilling rig when it parked at a Seattle port last year as it prepared to explore for oil in the Arctic.
Afrin Sopariwala, 30, a Seattle activist with Women of Color Speak Out, plans to participate this weekend.
“Looking at the conditions of the planet and my own family back home in India, and seeing how quickly and drastically the impacts of our decision are affecting the climate of the planet, I feel it’s my responsibility to future generations,” she said.
Ann Eissinger, a wildlife biologist who has studied (the bay’s herons) for years, said the timing was wrong but that organizers have done a stellar job of reaching out to police, media, participants and others to help minimize impact”.
“Our concern was on the ground, in the water and in the air. All three of those have been addressed, she said. ‘The only concern I have at this point is the unexpected.”