Anti-Oil Protesters Block Train Tracks To Two Washington Refineries

People congregate on the Burlington Northern Railroad tracks off Farm to Market Road in Skagit County on Friday evening, May 13, 2016, in Burlington, Wash. Hundreds of people in kayaks and on foot are gathering at th... People congregate on the Burlington Northern Railroad tracks off Farm to Market Road in Skagit County on Friday evening, May 13, 2016, in Burlington, Wash. Hundreds of people in kayaks and on foot are gathering at the site of two oil refineries in Washington state to call for action on climate change and a fair transition away from fossil fuels. On Friday evening, dozens of people were setting up a camp on railroad tracks near the refineries with the intent to stay and block the flow of oil as long as possible, according to a news release sent by event organizer Emily Johnston. (Scott Terrell/Skagit Valley Herald via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT MORE LESS
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SEATTLE (AP) — Dozens of climate activists have blocked railroad tracks leading to two oil refineries in northwest Washington state to oppose the flow of oil from trains to those facilities.

About 150 people spent the night in tents pitched on the railroad tracks near Anacortes, about 70 miles north of Seattle. Many of them were feeling jubilant Saturday morning as they prepared for a second day of demonstrations targeting the nearby Shell and Tesoro oil refineries.

Dozens more are expected to join the protesters who have formed a barricade on the tracks, said Ahmed Gaya, a spokesman with the Break Free Pacific Northwest who also spent the night on the tracks.

“The plan is to hold this space,” he said. “People in the Northwest and around the world are prepared to build these movements (of mass disobedience) and keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

The protests are part of a series of global actions calling on people to “break free” from dependence on oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Similar demonstrations are taking place in Los Angeles and Albany, New York, on Saturday and in Washington D.C. on Sunday.

In upstate New York, climate activists gathered at a crude oil shipment hub on the Hudson River to denounce fossil fuels and promote renewable energy sources. About 40 activists from numerous groups paddled on the river near the port on Friday with anti-oil signs and banners. A group sat on train tracks in downtown Albany on Saturday to protest the oil trains. Albany police reported no immediate arrests. Albany is a key hub for crude-by-rail shipments from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale region.

In Washington state, there have been no arrests as of Saturday morning, according to BNSF Railway and Skagit County officials.

“We’re currently not running traffic on the line,” BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said. “Our operations are flexible on this line. We had anticipated this and therefore adjusted scheduling with customers.”

The railroad tracks, which connects BNSF’s mainline to Anacortes, serves the two refineries as well as other customers.

“At this point, we’re standing back, letting them protest and developing a plan and will take action as necessary,” Melonas said Saturday morning.

Skagit County spokeswoman Bronlea Mishler said authorities are monitoring and that there were no plans as of Saturday morning to move the activists. “At this point, we’re playing it by ear,” she said.

The three-day event began Friday and includes “kayaktivists” demonstrating on water, community workshops and an indigenous ceremony. A march is planned Saturday afternoon in front of the oil refineries.

Protesters began pitching tents, erecting colorful flags and signs and setting up the railroad blockade Friday evening. Some did yoga or mediated, others chanted and sang.

Organizers say they want to transition to renewable energy in a way that doesn’t leave workers or communities behind, and they’re willing to risk arrest to engage in civil disobedience.

In Washington state, organizers are targeting two refineries that are among the top sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

Officials with both Shell and Tesoro said in earlier statements that they respect the right of people to demonstrate peacefully, and that safety is their highest priority.

Many of the nearly 40 groups involved in organizing the event were also involved in large on-water kayak protests against Shell’s Arctic oil drilling rig when it parked at a Seattle port last year.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  1. “The plan is to hold this space,” he said. “People in the Northwest and
    around the world are prepared to build these movements (of mass
    disobedience) and keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

    And when the “protest” is over, you’ll hop in your SUV (using fossil fuel) and drive home. When you get home, you’ll shower (using fossil fuel to heat the water), and sit down to a good meal of fresh meat and vegetables (trucked in to your local market with fossil fuel, and cooked with fossil fuel), before kicking back with a glass of beer (made with fossil fuel energy), to watch TV (fossil fuel energy), and feel like you made a difference with your protest.

    What was accomplished, except maybe getting your name in the paper and eventually getting arrested for trespassing?

    And then you may not even bother to vote because all the candidates are the same–none of them are green enough.

    Protesters began pitching tents, erecting colorful flags and signs and
    setting up the railroad blockade Friday evening. Some did yoga or
    mediated, others chanted and sang.

    Was that an effective response to the issue? I’m 100% in favor of renewable energy, would like to see a comprehensive governmental push to encourage the transition to renewable energy, but protests like these may actually make your cause look worse, not better. Remember the wildlife refuge squatters? Okay, you’re more well mannered and probably all very pleasant people, but I ask again, what do you expect to accomplish by doing this–besides making you feel like you did “something?”

  2. I will say I agree with a need to move away from fossil fuels etc, etc…

    But how many, do you think, of those “colorful flags”, tents and no doubt hammocks… Are polyester?

  3. True…

    But “having a point” and “effectively making a point” are two different things.

  4. They aren’t quite as bad ass as bloggers, that’s for dang sure.

    Someone poop in your post toasties today. What you got against activists?

  5. I’m a blogactivist sitting in easy chair exceedingly active and somehow I doubt that that is helping near as much as blocking a train or spending days on end outside to make my point.

    WIT, whatever it takes, this means-sit outs, sit ins, marches, protests, blogging, calling, strikes, boycotts and the whole gambit of activism.

    I knock no one for making an effort and you can bet your bottom dollar that someone that will go out and pitch their tent in front of a train is also doing many of the other things on the list.

    We use less oil when we camp, so bonus!

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