Stop Oil Trains in Idaho 2017 Actions Report

Stop Oil Trains in Idaho 2017 Actions 7-6to8-17 photos

Thanks to the volunteer, Sandpoint, Spokane, and Vancouver activists who participated in Stop Oil Trains in Idaho 2017 Actions on July 6 to 8, commemorating the fourth anniversary of the oil train derailment, spill, and fire in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, and honoring the 47 disaster victims and all lives impacted by oil-by-rail traffic and accidents [1, 2]!

On Thursday evening, July 6, we gathered at the Gardenia Center in Sandpoint, Idaho, for a Skyped, oil train watch training workshop presented by Matt Landon of Vancouver Action Network in Washington. Besides sharing handouts, information, and insights on methods of observing, documenting, and reporting Northwest fossil fuels trains, we conversed about train characteristics and Wild Idaho Rising Tide’s (WIRT) commitment to the skills and successes of non-violent, creative, civil resistance.

Occupy allies from Spokane, Washington, joined us for a family-friendly demonstration against oil trains, with homemade, protest signs around the Farmin Park clock tower in Sandpoint, on Friday evening, July 7. We soon moved to the Church Street silos near Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters, for their light projection display of social and climate justice messages, seen from the surrounding neighborhood and U.S. Highway 2, as the sky darkened.  We posted photos of the light show on social media, distributed WIRT brochures, and discussed Northwest oil train and terminal issues with curious passersby on foot and bike.

After enjoying pizza and beverages at the downtown Sandpoint, WIRT office overlooking the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) tracks, we walked without signs or candles through the one-mile-wide, “bomb train” blast zone, over the Sand Creek bridge, to the historic/Amtrak train station and BNSF rail line in Sandpoint, which carries 95 percent of the Alberta tar sands and Bakken crude oil, unit trains across north Idaho. Under an almost-full moon, we marched to City Beach Park, sharing reflections and stories about Sandpoint and Spokane vulnerabilities to coal and oil train pollution and catastrophes.  Our peaceful activities drew police presence and drained our cell phone batteries throughout the evening.

Despite the proximity of anti-abortion petitioners wielding uncivil images and verbal abuse, generally denounced and avoided by regional citizens, WIRT hosted a public outreach table under the Farmin Park clock, at the Farmers’ Market at Sandpoint on Saturday, July 8. We appreciated talking with numerous residents and visitors, and distributing educational material about fighting Northwest fossil fuels transportation and infrastructure, especially the proposed, second, BNSF rail bridge in Lake Pend Oreille.

Mostly pleased with the results of these three events in 48 hours, and grateful for Sandpoint, Spokane, and Vancouver comrades who generously participated, we are nonetheless disappointed with missed opportunities. Despite the ongoing, daily threats of fossil fuels to north Idaho lives, air, water, lands, and 80 percent of climate change, the endless, Sandpoint, party atmosphere distracted people away from potentially strong, daylight actions that oil train traffic seemed to avoid all weekend.

Since the Tuesday, July 4, evening full of firecrackers, vigilant, #IDoiltrainwatch and #WAoiltrainwatch monitors on the Sandpoint frontline unusually observed no day-time, westbound, BNSF, unit trains of black tanker cars, full of explosive, crude oil or anhydrous ammonia, until 4:15 pm on Sunday afternoon, July 9 [3]. By 10 am on Monday, July 10, at least four bomb trains resumed movement through town, undeterred by shared climate change articles and targetless rallies, attended hearings, submitted comments, and organized local forums on coal and oil trains and terminals.

[1] Stop Oil Trains in Idaho 2017 Actions, July 3, 2017 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[2] Stop Oil Trains in Idaho 2017 Actions, July 3, 2017 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[3] Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook page

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