Category Archives: Civil disobedience

Three arrested blockading train tracks in Pacific Northwest, protesting oil-by-rail expansion

Repost from (Global Justice Ecology Project)

Three arrested blockading train tracks in Pacific Northwest, protesting oil-by-rail expansion

by Sara Sullivan | July 29, 2014
Three Seattle area resident blockade train tracks at the Tesoro’s Anacortes Refinery. Photo credit: @SeattleActivist
Three Seattle area resident blockade train tracks at the Tesoro’s Anacortes Refinery. Photo credit: @SeattleActivist

On Monday, July 28th, three locals locked themselves onto train tracks in Anacortes, Washington to protest oil-by-rail shipments.

The protesters blocked the tracks at an oil refinery owned by Tesoro, which is planning to expand.

They were particularly inspired to act after an train full of Bakken field crude oil headed to the Anacortes refinery derailed in Seattle last week, another in a series of such accidents that have been devastating throughout the US and Canada.

According to EcoWatch:

The protestors were demanding an immediate end to the shipment of Bakken oil through Northwest communities, all new oil-by-rail terminals proposed for the Northwest and Clean Air Act violations by oil refineries.

The protest lasted four hours and stopped one train. They were later arrested.

Two of the protesters are part of Rising Tide Seattle, including Ahmed Gaya.  At a recent protest, Gaya described the current expansion of fossil fuels and coastal refineries in the Pacific Northwest: “Our region is under attack from thousands of tank cars carrying bombs rolling through our communities.”

Civil disobedience train protest in Maine: “competing harms defense” fails in court ruling

Repost from The Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine

Judge denies competing harms defense to couple charged in Auburn train protest

Christopher Williams, Lewiston-Auburn |Saturday, June 28, 2014

AUBURN — Two protesters who said they sat on railroad tracks last year in an effort to stop an approaching train carrying dangerous crude oil won’t be allowed to argue at trial that their actions were justified because those actions would have prevented a more serious harm from occurring.

Justice Joyce Wheeler wrote in a nine-page decision this week that Jessie Dowling of Unity and Douglas Bowen Jr. of Porter are barred from using a so-called “competing harms” defense.

The two had argued at a May hearing in Androscoggin County Superior Court that they considered the act of criminal trespass to be of lesser harm than allowing a train hauling explosive cargo to pass through an urban area.

County prosecutors had filed a motion aimed at blocking that defense tactic.

Wheeler wrote that the defendants failed to show the four elements needed to successfully argue that defense at trial.

The defendants had testified that they feared another explosion in Auburn similar to that which occurred at Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in July 2013. They said they didn’t have time to pursue legal avenues to stop the train from passing through Auburn.

Although they believed that would create a risk of harm to people there, the two defendants were required to show “as fact that such physical harm is imminently threatened,” Wheeler wrote in her court order.

They were unable to show that because “their action was weeks in planning and they had no idea whether the train was even in Maine at the time of their action,” Wheeler wrote.

Bowen had testified that had he “actually believed there was an imminent threat, he would have gone to police and rescue, which he did not do, thereby undermining his claim of an imminent threat,” Wheeler wrote.

Dowling had said in court that she believed there was a high probability that the train would explode that day, but she didn’t call police or rescue, “undermining her concern of catastrophic danger,” Wheeler wrote.

The two defendants “failed to demonstrate that there were no other alternatives” to sitting on the railroad tracks, Wheeler wrote.

The case is expected to be put on the next trial list.

Roughly 70 protesters demonstrated outside the Androscoggin County Courthouse last month before and during the hearing.

Dowling and Bowen were arrested Aug. 28, 2013, by local police when they refused to leave the railroad tracks on which they sat.

With the competing harms defense no longer an option, prosecutors will be tasked at trial with proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants trespassed criminally.

Bowen had testified that he had been told the train was traveling through Auburn on its way to Canada from the Midwest and his group had exhausted all legal means to stop it.