Thursday, November 17, 2016

Olympia Rail Blockade Negotiations Underway, Law Enforcement Meet at Port

Above: The Olympia rail blockade of Union Pacific tracks, as seen Thursday morning, started last Friday afternoon. Port of Olympia Commissioner E.J. Zita, City of Olympia councilmember Nathaniel Jones, and members of Olympia Stand met on Wednesday to discuss a peaceful resolution.

Law Enforcement Meeting Held At Port Office

State Legislator Writes “Economic Terrorism” Bill 

By Janine Gates

The rail blockade of a Union Pacific train currently on Port of Olympia property in downtown Olympia continued into its seventh evening on Thursday. 

The train tried to leave last Friday with a shipment of ceramic proppants destined for North Dakota, to be used in hydraulic fracking.

The Olympia Stand blockade may be the longest disruption of a fossil fuel industry shipment in state history.

Negotiations to peacefully end the rail blockade are underway, but time may be running out for protesters. 

On Thursday afternoon, a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement meeting was held at port administrative offices. About 20 officers were present. No port personnel was present, nor allowed at the meeting.

Port of Olympia Commissioner E.J. Zita issued a statement to media Thursday evening:

“Yesterday, people from Olympia Stand met with liaisons from the City of Olympia (Nathaniel Jones) and the Port of Olympia (myself). We discussed how we could work together toward a peaceful resolution of the fracking train blockade. My top priority is the safety of everyone involved, and I think Nathaniel agrees. I will not presume to speak for Olympia Stand or the Port of Olympia.

Councilmember Jones has proposed a way forward, which Olympia Stand may consider, and which Port Commissioners need to discuss.

The soonest that the three Port Commissioners can meet to discuss this is next Monday, due to travel and family commitments. Port Commissioners are then scheduled to discuss cooperating with the City's proposal for a peaceful resolution.

Meanwhile, I hope that no law enforcement action will be taken against Olympia Stand.

Zita told Little Hollywood Thursday evening that she chanced upon the meeting, and was nicely, but firmly escorted out. She said she has no information about law enforcement plans.

Economic Terrorism Bill Proposed

Washington State Senator Doug Ericksen, a Republican legislator from the 42nd District representing Whatcom County, issued a press release Wednesday saying he has prepared a bill for next year’s legislative session that would create a new crime of “economic terrorism.”

Ericksen says Washington needs to take a firm stand against illegal protests that block transportation and commerce, cause property damage, threaten jobs and put public safety at risk. 

Whatcom County has seen its own share of recent blockades and protests. 

Over 150 activists blocked an oil train in Anacortes in May as part of the Break Free coalition, and in August, a BNSF coal train was blocked by Deep Green Resistance Seattle members for 12 hours. 

According to the Bellingham Herald, trains were delayed three hours on Tuesday by Bellingham protesters, who left at sundown. The newspaper reported that officers in riot gear used pepper spray and in one instance, a stun gun was used against protesters who refused to leave.

“I haven’t seen Senator Ericksen’s proposed language but it appears that he lacks a basic understanding of the First Amendment and the role of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in an open and democratic society, Neil M. Fox, National Lawyers Guild of Seattle, told Little Hollywood Thursday evening. 

Senator Ericksen’s suggested legislation makes me fear what is coming down the road once Donald Trump becomes president,” he added. 

The bill would create a class C felony when protests aimed at causing economic disruption jeopardize human life and property. It would not apply in cases of lawful and protected activities, such as strikes and picketing.

The penalties would apply not just to participants but also to those who fund, organize, sponsor or otherwise encourage others to commit acts of economic terrorism. Accomplices may be required to pay restitution up to triple the amount of economic damage.

The actual bill language is not posted on Ericksen’s website. Ericksen is chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee.

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