Monday, November 14, 2016

Olympia Protesters Continue Rail Blockade

Above: A group of community activists, collectively named Olympia Stand, continued its direct action blockade of railroad tracks in downtown Olympia over the weekend. One of the group's demands is for the Port of Olympia to permanently cease fossil fuel shipments through the marine terminal. This sign is at the blockade.

By Janine Gates

An evolving group of community activists, collectively called Olympia Stand, continued its direct action blockade of railroad tracks over the weekend in downtown Olympia. 

In duration, it could be the longest, continuously occupied rail blockade in Washington State history. While attendance at the camp is fluid, there are at least 20 people on and around the track at all times. 

On Friday, a train hauling several cars of ceramic proppants was forced to return to the Port of Olympia's marine terminal after being blocked by protesters at the intersection of State and Jefferson Street. 

On Saturday, the blockade was moved a few blocks down the train tracks to the intersection of Jefferson St. and 7th Avenue. Activists have built a barricade of assorted materials on the railroad track using wooden pallets, signs, tents, and several couches.

One of the group's demands is for the Port of Olympia to permanently cease fossil fuel shipments through the marine terminal. 

The Port of Olympia has had a contract for several years with Rainbow Ceramics to receive proppants, which are created in China and delivered by ship in bags, destined to be used in the process of hydraulic fracking to allow for oil extraction in North Dakota's Bakken oil field.

Above: On Saturday, Nov. 12th, the blockade of the railroad tracks was moved a few blocks down the train tracks to the intersection of Jefferson St. and 7th Avenue. This picture is taken from 8th Avenue in downtown Olympia. Picture taken Saturday afternoon. 

What began as a couple of modest canopies with music blaring on Saturday has now morphed into an impressive tent community. People are still in good spirits, but by Sunday, the music was gone, not only out of respect for nearby downtown residents, but also to focus on the serious tasks central to their message.

Despite the cold, pelting rain and high winds Sunday evening, the camp's attendance swelled to about 75 individuals at about 7:00 p.m. for a facilitated group meeting, which lasted about an hour and a half. 

Under several secured tents and canopies, volunteers busily organized donated warm food, hot coffee, snacks, water, emergency supplies, and literature. The well-organized kitchen area includes food and water, and trash, recycling, and composting bins. 

Individuals are using proper restrooms at nearby businesses as needed. 

Above: Wooden pallets, debris, and couches under tarps are used to blockade the railroad tracks between 7th and 8th Avenue in downtown Olympia on Sunday evening.

Solidarity with Standing Rock

The action to resist the movement of ceramic proppants through Olympia had been planned by port militarization resistance activists for several months. Olympia community members have been upset about the transport of proppants through the Port of Olympia since 2012. 

Many at the camp are inspired by the water protectors of the Standing Rock Dakota Pipeline resistance. 

The group includes Kyle Taylor Lucas, who is also an organizer of the Salish Water and Land Protectors. 

The Salish Water and Land Protectors group is intended to create unity in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux in protecting their treaty rights, sacred lands, and Missouri River water.

Lucas, of Tumwater, is an Indigenous woman of the Tulalip Tribes and First Nations, Cooks Ferry and Lytton Bands of the Nlaka'pamux Nation of British Columbia.

A former Tumwater city council member, Lucas also served as executive director of the Governor's Office of Indian Affairs from 2003 to 2005. She currently has her own consulting business.

Certainly, we Indians have been fighting for our land and water against corporate and government oppression all our lives, but we've taken an unprecedented collective stand to support the Standing Rock Sioux people. In so doing, we are extending our ancestor's teachings to protect and preserve our sacred lands and waters on behalf of future generations, said Lucas, in an interview with Little Hollywood late Sunday.

It is critical that we do this now as the North Dakota fracking industry's tentacles reach across the nation, including across the State of Washington, and right into Olympia where we refuse to be complicit in the dirty fossil fuels extraction industry.

In taking direct action to disrupt the delivery of these fracking sands, we are answering the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's call to stand up to fossil fuels extraction industry in our region. We also stand in support of Native nations in the forefront of protecting traditional lands and water from the Bakken crude oil trains and oil terminals here in Washington,” said Lucas.

Above: The Port of Olympia marine terminal, bags of ceramic proppants, exposed, and under black tarps, and presumably, loaded in the train hoppers, as seen on Sunday evening. The cars are now connected to the train engine, which had been moved into place at some point since Saturday evening. 

For more information about the blockade, read, Protesters Stop Port of Olympia Proppant Train, at posted November 11, 2016.