Over 100 protesters banded together to block an oil train on tracks in Vancouver, Washington. The protesters blocked the train in response to a recent fiery oil train derailment along the Columbia River, according to King 5.
Twenty-one protesters were arrested and taken into custody in response to the oil protest on Saturday including an 85-year-old woman. They gathered at 9th and Daniels streets at 9 a.m. and walked to the BNSF Railway and Amtrak Station on West 11th Street where they stayed until 12:30 p.m when police started to make arrests.
Riot police were called to disperse the protesters but were not needed and stayed back off the tracks.
“You are trespassing on BNSF Railway property,” an officer said over a loud speaker. “If you refuse to leave, you will be arrested for criminal trespass in the second degree.”
The protesters ignored the dozens of calls to move on and continued to block the train holding up signs that read “Ban the bomb train” and chanting slogans such as, “Want to know what all the fuss is? Rising up for climate justice.”
The protesters sat in a circle on the track and held up umbrellas decorated with sunflowers, posters, and banners and ranged in age from the young to old people; even a dog attended the protest.
Mike Matheny, who lives in Portland, brought his two young children to the protest and said it was important for him to bring them so they understand they can make a difference.
“[My children] will realize the consequences of inaction or not making changes…and so the urgency of giving them some exposure to the sense of public voice, the sense of community … is very important to me,” he said.
Protesters were given the option to move along to escape arrest, and about 80 people did move off the tracks. Imogene Williams, 85, chose not to move her chair off the tracks and was one of the 21 people arrested.
The 21 protesters that were arrested for blocking the oil train had ignored repeated orders to clear out and disperse. Originally, police gave out trespassing notices, but when protesters refused to move on, they started taking people into custody.
The group of protesters, calling themselves the Fossil Fuel Resistance Network, did so to highlight the risks associated with fossil fuel extraction, transportation, and consumption off the back of a derailment in Oregon. The train was not manned and spilled 42,000 gallons of crude oil earlier this month that forced nearly 300 people to leave their homes. No one was injured, but the train crash damaged the city’s sewage treatment plant and will have long term effects on the river system.
Vancouver is also proposed to be the site of a highly controversial $210 million oil terminal, but protesters plan to end fossil fuel extraction and transportation before the new site can be built, according to Oregon Live.
Sharon Rickman, 58, was one of the protesters that blocked the train on Saturday morning and said she did so because she is worried about “explosive oil” and the safety of people living in Vancouver.
“They’re unsafe, they’ll never be safe,” she said.
The protest has fallen close to the anniversary of one of the deadliest oil train crashes. Forty-seven people were killed in July 2013 when a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train jumped off the track in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
Rickman pointed out the people need to move away from oil and onto more environmentally sustainable and greener ways of doing things.
Another protester, Mia Reback, said she feared for herself and others when the train they were protesting against stopped about 50 feet from the protesters and blared its horn aggressively.
“BNSF bringing a train this close to protesters further shows they do not care about the health and safety of community members,” Reback said.
Gus Melonas, a spokesperson for BNSF Railway, responded against the claim that protesters were in harms way and said no one was in danger at any point. Melonas said the train was loaded with paper products and was traveling at just 3 mph.
“We don’t want anyone to get hurt. We will not run trains until it’s determined to be safe for the public.”
Melonas said BNSF is also trying to access the cost of the train protest that lasted over three hours as five other trains were also delayed that morning as a result.
The train started to move along the tracks again at 1 p.m. after being stopped for three hours and blared its horn as it passed the protesters that were not taken into custody.
[Photo by Contributor/Getty Images]