Portland Police Arrest Protesters Blocking Oil Train Tracks With a Garden

The arrests came on Earth Day

By Allison Place, Willamette Week, April 22 at 5:19 PM
Portland police arrest an environmental protester at Zenith Energy on 4/22/19. (Allison Place)

Portland Police officers arrested 11 protesters this afternoon who were sitting on railroad tracks to protest Zenith Energy’s rapidly expanding import of Alberta tar sands oil.

Two dozen officers arrived around 3:30 pm today—Earth Day—to remove protesters from the train tracks at Zenith’s facility in Industrial Northwest Portland.

Before that, protestors spent much of the day sitting on the railroad tracks, chatting and munching on Ritz crackers. Yesterday, they had dumped a load of topsoil and planted a garden over the tracks.

“This is our second day. We came here to launch Extinction Rebellion, which is part of an international movement,” said protestor Ken Ward, who became famous in 2016 for turning off a valve to shut off the crude-oil pipeline that runs from the Alberta tar sands to Washington State for refining.

“[Zenith] is a poster child for government being unable to take effective steps on climate,” Ward added. “We have a company trying to triple the [amount] of Canadian tar sands oil sent through Portland when Portland doesn’t want to be expanding it’s fossil fuel infrastructure—and yet nobody seems to be able to do anything about it.”

City Council voted in 2015 to block further expansion of fossil fuels in Portland. Zenith’s oil shipments have grown rapidly since then, calling into question what the city will do about the energy plant.

Ward has been arrested 3 times previously for his activism, and he was among those arrested today.

Leah Francis, an organizer with Extinction Rebellion PDX, said she’d only slept two hours over the last two days while protesting Zenith.

“We need to move on to tactics that actually demand something of power,” said Francis. “If you’re an environmentalist in Mexico, you can end up with your head cut off in a ditch. Getting arrested in Multnomah County where we’ll be released without bail with a minor misdemeanor charge seems like a non-issue to me.”

Protestors sang “Let it Be” by John Lennon while awaiting arrest.