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.

Olympia Rail Protesters Given Notice to Vacate, Port Commissioners Respond

Above: Community activists, collectively called Olympia Stand, continues its blockade of Union Pacific Railroad tracks in its effort to halt the transfer of ceramic proppants from the Port of Olympia to North Dakota, where the product will be used in hydraulic fracking process to allow for oil extraction.

Port Commissioners Downing, Zita Make Statements about Blockade at meeting Monday night

By Janine Gates

At about 8:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, two Union Pacific Railroad Company police served notice on blockade participants to vacate the railroad at 7th and Jefferson in downtown Olympia.

The notice of emergency abatement placed on the blockade site states to vacate the property or risk criminal trespass in the second degree.

The notice is partially handwritten, saying that further violations exceeding the notice are subject to violations. The term “ORS.164.255” is crossed out, which would be a first degree violation, and “second degree” is written in.

“The nuisances on this property include illegal camping, debris, scattering of rubbish, harborage for rats, unclean and unsanitary conditions, and therefore violates the property rights of the Union Pacific Railroad,” it states in part.

The notice does not give a time or date that trespassers must vacate the property.

Two members of the National Lawyers Guild arrived about 9:00 a.m. and identified themselves to Little Hollywood as observers.

At the same time, while standing outside the encampment, a white truck with two men inside drove by yelling, “Trump!” “Trump!” “Trump!”

Above: A Union Pacific Railroad notice of emergency abatement placed Tuesday morning at the railroad blockade site at 7th and Jefferson in downtown Olympia. The notice states that it is a notice to vacate the property or risk criminal trespass in the second degree.

Protesters, collectively called Olympia Stand, have maintained its direct action blockade of the railroad tracks since Friday afternoon. 

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.

City of Olympia city manager Steve Hall was at the camp Tuesday morning on his way to work and got there just in time to see the railroad police put up the notices.

“I just hope there’s a peaceful end to this – I hope people don’t get in trouble at a higher level while being heard," said Hall. Hall said he spoke to the railroad police, who were vague about whether or not it was a felony to block a train.

“I’m hoping this is handled the Olympia way and people don’t get hurt,” said Hall.

Protesters have visually fortified their barricade at 7th and Jefferson with white plastic sheeting, but blockade activities can clearly be seen from Jefferson Street.

At last night’s Port of Olympia meeting, about 17 activists, in addition to those in the audience, peacefully showed up to make their presence known to the commissioners and stood in the back of the room during the public comment period.

Several spoke directly to the Port’s complicity in the degradation of the environment by accepting the ceramic proppant shipments from China and allowing transport to North Dakota to be used in the process of hydraulic fracking.

Zoltan Grossman, a professor at The Evergreen State College, urged commissioners to be on the right side of history.

A student of The Evergreen State College, Colleen Allen, said that many students care about their future.

“We care about the future – all we ask is that you care about our future too,” she said.

Above, left to right: Port of Olympia commissioners Joe Downing, Bill McGregor, and E.J. Zita at their regular meeting on Monday evening.

The commissioners briefly responded to public concerns, but did not dwell on the topic.

Commissioner Joe Downing responded by saying that he did not vote for Donald Trump and has had a sign on his car in support of Hillary Clinton for a couple months.

“I’m choked up, because things are going to get tough and I’m just seeing the handwriting on the wall….”

How that relates to fracking, he said, is that the community has to continue to have a dialog about energy production and port priorities. He said he has spoken directly with protesters and doesn’t personally see a connection between that conversation and the port's shipping of proppants to North Dakota.

“We need to have rail car safety…I don’t agree with blocking trains.…Make your voices known, and move on to the next issue, frankly,” said Downing.

In a statement provided to Little Hollywood on Monday, Commissioner E.J. Zita said:

“I asked last month to be informed of any movements of fracking proppants at the Port, but was surprised to learn of events last week.  I commend the Olympia Police Department for their hands-off response to peaceful protest.  Public safety and freedom of speech are high priorities. 

“Port Commissioners are responsible for setting port policy, and the executive director is responsible for carrying out that policy.  While the executive director may have played a key role in securing the Rainbow Ceramics contract to move fracking proppants through the Port, future decisions on this matter rest with commissioners.  We must weigh risks and benefits to people and the environment as well as to economics.

“The Port's Environmental Director has recently undertaken an assessment of our direct (Scope 1) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  I recommend that we also evaluate the indirect (Scope 2 and Scope 3) GHG emissions due to fracking proppants moving through the Port,” said Zita.

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