In a world only beginning to suffer the onset of climate change, ocean acidification, desertification of farmland and countless other maladies caused by greenhouse gas induced global warming, it’s hard to find a villain more evil than the fossil fuel industry. When conjuring this evil, we usually think of the heavyweights like Exxon, Shell, British Petroleum. New York City-based heavy crude and LNG exporters Arc Logistics LP are no better.
In proud Orwellian tradition, Arc claims a code of corporate responsibility committed to “conducting business with honesty, integrity, and in accordance with the highest legal and ethical standards [where] officers and other employees must comply with all applicable legal requirements of the United States.”
Arc began operating an oil train export terminal in Northwest Portland in early 2014. No permit was required to begin these operations, as the facility had already been built. Despite this huge legal loophole, Arcs actions are very much out of line with their own corporate code, to say nothing of the crimes against the bioregion they’re committing. As Utah Phillips correctly asserted, “The Earth isn’t dying, it’s being killed. And the killers have names and addresses.”
It was with this clarity of vision last week that residents representing the groups NoKXL, Portland Rising Tide, 350 PDX, Portland Raging Grannies, First Unitarian Community for Earth Team, and PDX Bike Swarm descended upon Arc’s local address at 5501 NW Front Ave, Portland, OR 97210.
As a member of Bike Swarm, I joined up with my crew in the foggy morning at Chapman square, the historic site of many protests and uprisings over the last century – most recent of which was of course the Occupy Portland encampment 3 years ago. From here we rode with music bumping northward to the industrial outskirts of the city.
Arriving at Arc’s terminal gates we were greeted by cheers from the crowd already gathered. Immediately you could smell chemicals and exhaust in the air. A few people were coughing. I couldn’t imagine having to work here and breathing this toxic air day after day. A few minutes after our own arrival, a second wave of Swarmers appeared with the Tank of Doom in tow.
More people continued gathering near the gate until our numbers topped out at just under 100 – not bad for a weekday morning. Several announcements were made, several chants were shouted. Nothing too out of the ordinary. A handful of PPB officers watched from across the street. A few hard hats on their break climbed up to get a better view of the commotion. One of their white-shirted supervisors video-taped us from atop a cat walk.
As had been planned, several trained activists sat down, blocking the main gate in trespass of Arc’s private property. The police continued to watch, but made no move to intervene. National Lawyers Guild legal observers were also on hand, and exchanged a few words with the officers. None of this felt confrontational. In fact, the police seemed entirely content to simply watch.
Eventually the police began moving out. An announcement was made: the PPB had no intention of making arrests here. The seated activists were prepared to go to jail as part of the action. Today, though, this would not be the case.
— Hart Noecker (@HartNoecker) October 10, 2014
Instead, the entire crowd formed a circle and engaged in a bit of discussion about the action’s success. Arc had chosen not to run any trains through the terminal for the entire day to avoid a confrontation with protesters.
While all recognized this was indeed a small victory, there was also a collective sense that if all the company must do to avoid negative press is change their schedule, our own tactics would need to escalate in the future. This point was emphasized by one of the activists who had risked arrest. Arc does not want its name in the paper, despite their ‘commitment’ to obeying the law and “doing business with honesty and integrity”.
As folks began dispersing, Bike Swarm along with the Tank of Doom stopped for a few more celebratory photo ops on the way out. Riding slowly, (while helping to calm traffic), Swarm made its way to Base Camp Brewing Company for some well deserved pints and to discuss future actions. There was definitely a sense of building momentum shared by everyone – people talked of building more Tanks of Doom, potential ways to disrupt Arc’s tracks in more permanent ways, and how to further develop this new Climate Action Coalition.
If Portland is to ditch its Greenwashing problem and become a truly sustainable metropolis, as a community we’re going to have to step up our game of kicking corporate polluters like ESCO, Precision Cast Parts, and Arc Logistics out of Portland. Signing ‘good neighbor’ agreements with these companies is simply a means to pacify public outrage. Businesses making vague climate pledges with no actual commitment is a feel-good waste of time. Only sustained direct action and civil disobedience – including destruction of property – is going to force necessary, lasting changes.
See you in the streets.
Full photo album from Thursday’s action HERE.