Over the weekend of May 13-15, 2,000 people traveled from as far as Montana, Idaho, and Oregon to participate and demand a just transition to renewable energy. It was just one part of the worldwide “Break Free” actions to demand an end to fossil fuel use. I, along with Socialist Alternative members from Seattle and Bellingham, joined the protest in Anacortes, Washington.
Break Free organized marches, conferences, and direct actions all targeting the Tesoro oil refinery which is responsible for 47% of the gas used in the Pacific Northwest region. This refinery happens to be on land seized illegally from the Swinomish people, who led the main march and demonstration.
While there were 2,000 people marching around the refinery, there were 150 people camping on the railroad tracks, blocking oil trains from coming into the refinery. They stayed there for three days, at the end of which about 50 people were arrested. To have a march of this size, so far from a city, shows the energy and determination that there is to fight back against the domination of fossil fuels. I wanted to be at a major march, to be with the largest number of people and talk with them about what would be necessary to build this movement and win, but think of how much stronger this could have been if the two – the march and the railroad blockade – had been brought together in one action! The most dedicated, those risking arrest, could have a chance to speak to the larger crowd and explain their strategy and inspire the crowd to stay involved, and the larger march could give back its support and strength!
There was a real desire, present both in conversations we had with people and visible on the many homemade signs, to include a “just transition” in the message of the march – to say that we understand the fossil fuel workers’ fears about job security and that there should be real measures to give them that in a new industry – the renewable energy industry – with offers of retraining, early retirement, etc. For too long, we have let the oil industry bosses divide our movements along the lines of “jobs vs. the environment.” We say no! It is the 99% vs. the 1%! It is our livelihoods, our children’s futures vs. your profits!