Their pipeline won’t work without oil

November 30, 2016

Brian Huseby reports on the movement in Washington state to prevent the Port of Olympia from being used to transfer dangerous materials used for fracking.

AS THE fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline gets increasing national attention, one front in the battle has continued thousands of miles away from the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota.

For almost a week, activists in Washington state blocked a train carrying ceramic proppants--which are used in the process of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to keep fractures open for oil and gas extraction--from leaving the Port of Olympia for the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota.

On November 11, protesters set up a camp on the railroad tracks in downtown Olympia to prevent the train from proceeding. The encampment lasted until armed police and railroad guards raided the camp on November 18.

Although greatly outnumbered, protesters defended the camp for approximately 30 minutes, after which the cops tore down the camp and arrested 12 protesters. A second group of protesters then blocked the now-cleared tracks but were dispersed by overwhelming police force. Several protesters were injured by weapons ranging from pepper balls to flash grenades.

Protesters in Olympia, Washington, blockade a train bound for North Dakota with fracking materials
Protesters in Olympia, Washington, blockade a train bound for North Dakota with fracking materials

THE TRACK blockade was the latest protest against the construction of both oil and coal storage facilities in the Pacific Northwest, as opposition grows to both exporting fossil fuels and importing materials used in their extraction.

The action in Olympia was organized by Olympia Stand, which describes itself as being "organized through a horizontal General Assembly (without rulers), connected committees, affinity groups, and an Indigenous caucus."

The blockade was an expression of solidarity with both the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline by the Standing Rock Sioux Native Water Protectors, as well as local Indigenous movements for sovereignty.

"We Indians have been fighting for our land and water against corporate and government oppression for 200 plus years," explained Indigenous Caucus member Kyle Taylor Lucas. "We don't always agree among ourselves, but tribes and Indigenous peoples have taken an unprecedented and collective stand to support the Standing Rock Sioux people with more than 300 nations joining the Standing Rock people in their defense of life-sustaining water."

The General Assembly agreed on several points of unity, paraphrased as follows:

No more betrayal...Tribes must be able to decide what is and what is not shipped through their land.

No fossil fuel infrastructure in the port and no more fossil fuel extraction throughout the globe.

Direct power over the port to be put in the hands of the people.

The Indigenous Caucus noted that with their raid law enforcement officials and the railroad repeated a long-standing practice of Indian betrayal.

A Union Pacific Railroad attorney had agreed to a negotiation meeting at 4 p.m. on Friday, November 18 and assured protesters that no raid on the camp would be made until after the meeting. Yet at 4 a.m. on the same day, the raid--which included railroad police--took place.

ALTHOUGH THE train got through this time, Olympia Stand and other activists are determined to keep fighting until no fracking material leaves the port. "They may think this is the end, but this is just the beginning," Taylor Lucas vowed.

The protests have had a real impact locally. In 2014, the Olympia City Council passed a resolution against oil train traffic and urged the port to end importing and transporting fracking materials.

Opposition has also came from a very unexpected source. Following the railroad blockage, Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts appeared at a council meeting and urged the port to stop clashing with community values by taking in fracking materials.

"It angers me to have to put our officers in combat gear and face off with members in our community over something I don't believe in myself," Roberts stated.

The election of Donald Trump, who has publicly claimed that climate change is a fraud peddled by China to hurt U.S. manufacturing, has dealt a blow to the movement for a transition to clean and renewable energy. But activists from Olympia to Standing Rock are showing that when we fight we can win, regardless of who is about to be in the White House.

For the sake of our planet, we have no choice.

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