Seattle Rising Tide with Raging Grannies Block an Oil Train

Annette Klapstein, Adam Gaya and Jan Woodruff locked down to the tracks at Tesoro’s March Point refinery, located on stolen* Swinomish land in Anacortes, on Monday morning, stopping an oil train from leaving the facility for over four hours.

For months, communities along so-called Washington’s coast have been working hard at leveraging bureaucracy in their favor–filling public comment periods, howling at Jay Inslee, staging symbolic blockades in population centers, educating the public–all in an attempt to stop the transport of explosive Bakken crude oil by rail. Yet, all their efforts couldn’t stop an oil train derailment on July 17th in Everett, and again a week later in Seattle.

It’s about time someone escalated the fight against oil trains.

“The seattle city council and the mayor have asked for an immediate halt to all oil train traffic through seattle,” Adam Gaya of Seattle Rising Tide said. “We’re getting a lot of requests, and pretty words, and asking for a halt, but nobody seems to be actually imposing a moratorium on these oil trains. So we felt the need to come and do it ourselves.”

Monday’s action came on the tail end of a similar oil train blockade in Portland on June 30th this summer.

Gaya was in high spirits for the duration of the lock-down, alternating between speaking to reporters, chanting with supporters, and singing songs like, “It Isn’t Nice,” by Malvina Reynolds.

While negotiating with the cops, the blockader’s requested that Tesoro connect them via telephone with someone they could make their demands to. Minutes later the cops returned with Tesoro’s general customer service number. Not being customers, Gaya and others politely declined.  This reality contrasts nicely with one of the Tesoro cronies’ media statements about how he “takes this type of incident very seriously.”

I wonder if he takes seriously the millions of Indigenous people worldwide, from the Arctic to the Philippines, being displaced from their land and severed from their traditional subsistence cultures due to a rapidly changing climate. The astronomical spike in crude production from the Bakken region is nothing but bad news for these people.

“It’s no surprise that an industry willing to sacrifice the entire planet to catastrophic climate change doesn’t see a few vaporized towns and cities as significant. With recent disasters and the accelerating climate crisis we shouldn’t even be considering new oil infrastructure,” Gaya said.

Although the Tesoro mouthpiece told reporters that the facility was not disrupted by the blockade, the lock-downers confirmed that an oil train was warming up it’s engine when they deployed at 7:45am, and that it’s engines were shut down shortly thereafter. It’s no surprise Tesoro would try to downplay the effectiveness of Monday’s blockade. Unlike the public hearings and lobbying, direct action eats away at the industry’s profit margin, and that’s effective.


*Note: So-called March Point was part of the Swinomish reservation and an area Swinomish people gathered traditional intertidal foods until the U.S. colonial government snatched it in an 1873 executive order. It is now zoned as a heavy impact industrial area and home to the Shell and Tesoro oil refineries.

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