Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Olympia Union Pacific Rail Blockade May Qualify as “Terrorist Attack”

Above: The railroad blockade continued in downtown Olympia on Tuesday. Early Tuesday, at 6:00 a.m., the Union Pacific police department served notice to protesters to vacate the tracks within two hours. They did not do so and Union Pacific officers did not come back. 

Port, Union Pacific, Olympia Police Departments Involved

By Janine Gates

Editor's Note, November 16: Headline was changed from "Olympia Union Pacific Rail Blockade Qualifies as "Terrorist Attack" to "Olympia Union Pacific Rail Blockade May Qualify as "Terrorist Attack." Little Hollywood only cited one source for the legal information that was obtained from inside the blockade camp and provided to protesters on site. Little Hollywood appreciates the feedback.

The blockade of a Union Pacific train carrying ceramic proppants in downtown Olympia by protesters may qualify as a terrorist attack under federal codes and involves Port of Olympia security, the Union Pacific police department, and the City of Olympia police department.

Ceramic proppants are ceramic coated beads of sand created in China and used in the process of hydraulic fracking to allow for oil extraction. The train carrying the proppants from the Port of Olympia is destined for North Dakota's Bakken oil field. 

The evolving group of activists, collectively known as Olympia Stand, have created a camp on and near the tracks, and have increased their security measures. On environmental grounds, many are willing to risk arrest in a direct action to prevent the train from leaving Olympia. 

Climate scientists are clear that in order to stave off catastrophic climate change, 80 percent of fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground. 

In a press release issued November 13, the Olympia Stand group says it will continue to fight the import or export of fossil fuel infrastructure until the Port of Olympia finds alternative uses for the marine terminal.

Ports are considered separate municipalities, like a city or town, and have their own security force to protect port property. State law applies in ports, but some federal charges may also apply because ports are considered critical infrastructure of commerce. 

The Olympia Police Department has largely employed a hands-off approach, but officers have been seen in the area.

Little Hollywood asked the Olympia Police Department on Tuesday if it is cooperating with the Union Pacific Railroad special agents.

“We are working with Union Pacific Railroad police as well as working with other local agencies to ensure the city remains safe. Although the Union Pacific Railroad police department is the primary agency handling this matter and it is their jurisdiction right now, we recognize it is in the heart of our downtown and whatever comes of this will likely carry on to our city streets, said public information officer Lt. Paul Lower.

“The group occupying the railroad tracks has put flyers up in a number of locations downtown Olympia which indicates they are unwilling to cooperate with anyone and will carry out their plan “by any means necessary,” using words such as “fight,” “attack,” and “fight back” to define what they mean. 

The City of Olympia Police Department’s primary concern is the safety of our community. We are working hard to keep our community safe,” he added.

The encampment on the tracks has grown since the protest started last Friday.

Early Tuesday, at 6:00 a.m., protesters were served notice by two Union Pacific special agents based in Portland to vacate the railroad at 7th and Jefferson Street. Little Hollywood was told that one officer recorded the interaction with a camcorder.

Protesters were given a two hour warning and told to vacate by 8:00 a.m., however, railroad agents did not show up at 8:00 a.m.

There is a split in the railroad tracks between 7th and 8th Avenues in the area where the protesters are located. On Monday morning, protesters were contacted by another railroad company that operates a nearby track and were asked to untie a rope that was in the way of that railroad line’s property. 

The rope was anchoring a tent, and protesters untied the rope as requested without incident.

About that same time, a Port of Olympia inspector and a supervisor also showed up, along with Olympia Police Department officers, but there was no incident, and all officers left the scene.

Union Pacific Police Department History

Union Pacific has a police department staffed with more than 220 special agents, who are responsible for all Union Pacific locations across 32,000 miles of track in 23 states. 

Special agents have primary jurisdiction over crimes committed against the railroad and are certified state law enforcement officers with investigative and arrest powers both on and off railroad property in most states. They also have interstate law enforcement authority pursuant to federal law.

In 2014, the Union Pacific Police Department achieved accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA) for complying with the highest law enforcement standards. Only 17 percent of U.S. law enforcement agencies have earned the CALEA accreditation.

The railroad police force dates to the mid-1800s, when the number of U.S. Marshals was insufficient to police the country's growing rail network. Members were called Pinkertons, named after their originator, Alan Pinkerton.

Today, each Class I railroad employs special agents across the country to protect the rail network.

According to the Civil Liberties Defense Center, railroad tracks, and usually the land extending up to 50 feet on either side, are private property of railroad corporations.

Railroad police have interstate jurisdiction and can investigate and enforce all state law crimes against railroad whether or not the officers are on railroad property.

There are special state and federal charges that may be brought against protesters interfering with railroads and trains.

Federal charges typically involve the use of violence, but many non-violent actions may face serious charges and is written in a 1992 code rather broadly as
terrorist attacks and other violence against railroad carriers and against mass transportation systems on land, on water, or through the air.

Disabling, wrecking, or derailing any on-track equipment or vehicle, as well as making tracks, depots, bridges, tunnels, signals, warehouses, etc. unusable or unworkable also qualifies as a terrorist attack.

Also according to the Civil Liberties Defense Center, collecting information, surveilling, photographing, videotaping, or diagramming railroads or equipment to assist in any of this behavior may also qualify as a terrorist act, as does attempting, threatening, conspiring, or conveying false information about an attempt to do any of the above. 

All the above qualifies a Class C felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or fines.

State charges also exist for railroad-specific behavior in Washington, including obstructing or delaying a train. This is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. 

For more photos and information about the rail blockade, Olympia Stand, the Port of Olympia, and ceramic proppants, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, and type key words into the search button.

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