Sunday, May 15, 2016

Stop the Bomb Trains in Port Albany, action with my friends ‪#‎BreakFree2016

On Saturday morning I got up to join a group of activists organizing to stop potentially explosive fracked oil trains from careening across New York.  

As the organizers with put out the call for the action:

On May 14th in Albany, NY people from across the Northeast will stop the fracked oil trains in the port of Albany with their bodies. We will stop the “bomb train”, the presence of which is an act of environmental racism, class prejudice, and an illegal breach of the public trust. We will make it clear that the health and safety of the residents of Albany matter, and that we have an ethical duty to secure human rights of future generations when government has so dramatically failed to do so. Over a thousand people are signed up to join us, over 600 plan to risk arrest to stop the train, and we expect the number to be much larger than that.
We need keep fossil fuels in the ground and support community health and safety, and the time to act is now. Many of us will participate in direct action and many more will come to rally and stand in solidarity. How you participate is up to you, but we are asking you to please be there.

Top JK and Erik, bottom, Jessie

Buses were leaving at 7 AM from 34th street.   So I got up and joined my friends on our way up to Albany.

Erik and JK were there.  So were Catherine and Jessie Henshaw, a systems ecologist.  We talked for a while about why we were on the bus.  Jessie expressed concerns about an expanding system of “disruptive investment” wiping out everything else in its wake.  The fallout is people. This is one of the places where inequity is expanding.  The trains are a symptom of this short term thinking. Selling rights of way to make money. Multiplying money in this way is self-defeating in the end.

As Jessie Henshaw elaborated: “Using the Hudson river valley as a major oil transport corridor, with rail, and trucks, as part of the delivery system for Canadian oil and the aggressive global expansion of the financial system as investment of ever bigger scale creates ever greater risks of environmental and community disruption.”

“To make money investors take increasing risks of causing disruptive change.  Sometimes because they have no responsibility for the risks they take at all except for getting away with short term financial gains.   That occurs even as the businesses they invest in are caught in the middle trying to operate more sustainability.   The business are required to report the risks they know they are taking. But the investors do not.  And never do.  The only risk that investors consider is in relation to the bottom line, but not to the system they are investing in.   Its sortov perverse.  Its the question of fiduciary responsibility.  If you are going to take someone’s money do you take their children’s livelihoods into account?  No.”

JK and Erik

JK and I talked about the beats and the Fugs of the Lower East Side. “Everyone on this whole bus is a beat,” I explained. “Everyone.”

JK recalled her days in New York, from Max’s Kansas City through the garden movement.   

“This isn’t our first arrest,” she recalled, referring to our days at Esperanza Garden, back in 2000.

“I was the last one to get out cause there was something on my record,” JK confessed.
“Just like being arrested with Sylvia Rivera in 1998.  A bust came up from 1973.  Something about a fight at the Silver Dollar diner back in the day,” I remembered.

“I’m not sure mine was about civil disobedience.  Ron Kuby was my lawyer.  He said to the judge. It was in the 1970’s.  I can’t remember what I was doing in the 1970’s.  And the judge threw it out.”
WE talked about Paris.

“Paris was not enough, but it’s a beginning,” said Catherine, sitting across from me.  
“There was a presence of a global movement.  The denialists lost their ground,” I followed.
“The people will lead, government will follow. "
"The People’s Climate March, pushed Obama to work moving an agreement with China.”
After Paris for a few months, the movement has felt quite separate.  But now this feels as if there is a mass movement.  Between this and Peekskill, we are seeing movement, that is open and inviting.  Between people power and a scientific consensus moving forward.  

“Five months after Paris we are finally seeing mass actions.  Ende Gelaende in Germany,” noted Johnathan Stubbs, another man on the bus. “Multiple days.  They are back there today,” he followed.  He read from the twitter feed. “It’s a mass blockade.  Here and no further, another black line.  We are the investment risk.  We have to create  a democratic global economic system. Our action is a promise. WE are not just fighting oil and coal and the logic of growth.”

We scrolled through pictures from their ongoing blockade.

Scenes from Ende Gelände.  Their literature explains:  "2016 is the crucial year that will determine the future of coal in Lusatia. Vattenfall, one of the big energy corporations in Germany, wants to sell the coal mines and power plants, instead of shutting them down as they should. We say: If Vattenfall wants to ditch its business in Lusatia just to leave the dirty job to someone else, we will put our foot in the door. And we will step on the toes of the leaders in current climate politics. For we can neither wait for nor trust in their politics. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, this coal has to remain in the ground!
And we kept on talking.  Catherine mentioned the kayactivists in Australia and on the Hudson taking on the barges.  And we bemoaned the  90,000 gallons of oil spilling  into the Gulf of Mexico.

John and Catherine

Eventually, we talk through plan and action agreement for our keep it in the ground, stop the bomb trains action.

Cathleen leads us through a new version of row, row, row your boat. “Stop stop stop the trains, they’re not what they seem, once the fossil fuel explodes, life is but a scream.

And we get out in Albany.  People pass out more literature. 

Arriving in Albany, we meet some of the other organizers and pose for a group shot in the park.

JK and I  walk to Lincoln Park, looking at the trees in Albany.   We both talk to trees.  She told me about her friend who helped her get to know the trees. “George was an old Brooklyn guy, who was in recovery.  He walked me through the Botanical Garden one day.  ‘Don’t you feel their intelligence,’ he asked me, pointing at one of the old trees.  At first I looked at him like he was crazy and then I started to feel it.”

Strolling around, I look at some of the signs. 

Walking around the park, I chat with folks planning to get arrested, running into Seth Tobocman.  

He and I recall about an action he joined us at when the City office of Housing Preservation and Development put out a proposal to develop the community gardens.   A group of us in public space party replied to the RFP, deliverring a reply calling to turn the HPD office into a garden.

“That was just like when Len Weinglass used to do,” recalled Seth.  “He used to apply for a permit with an old Playboy Magazine.”

“Its great that we are doing this today.  Its been five months since Paris,” I commented.

“Five months, five years too late.  This is not going away,” he explained.  He’d been here all week long, making signs.

Some of the women from LUSH walked up.  They were making signs.

“The situation with the Ezra Prentice Housing is horrible,” Seth explained.  “Even if a train never blows up, the fact that these kids have to grow up in the shadow of these trains will impact them their whole life."  Environmentalists have long argued these trains violate the Clean Air Act, presenting a health menace for those in their vicinity. "I’ve been doing this for 25 years and this really ways on me.”

Speakers were about to begin at the rally.

“Are you ready to break free?” one of the speakers declares.   You are part of a global week of actions against fossil fuels.  Albany is one of those sites.  We gotta stop these bomb trains while we are here to say no, we are also here to say yes to each other and community.

“The risks out way the benefits,” notes Victoria Kornay, of Albany. “We need to think of new ways to keep it in the ground.  When we are assuming all of the risk and none of the benefits, we don’t want you in our community. We gotta say no to Pilgrim Pipeline.  If we continue like this, we won’t have clear air or water or anything.

Iris Marie Brown complimented the crowd.  “You looked great on the river with the kayactivists the other day.

Henry and Loretta

My friend Henry, an old direct action trainer, walked up to me and we talked about the plans to block the railroad tracks.
So I started marching with Loretta Pyles who teaches social work at Albany.  She used to teach in New Orleans, where she saw the ravages of Hurricane Katrinia first hand.  Now an awareness of the global environment is part of her teaching.
Everyone marches out, walking through Albany to the Port  to block the trains carrying fossil fuels, one accident away from exploding. 

Chants filled the air.

“No prisons no pipelines, shut it down.”
“The people, the planet, and peace over profit!”
“Keep the oil in the soil, keep the gas in the ground.”

Marching, we make our way through town to the railroad tracks.
I was thinking of Allan Ginsberg, who wrote about blocking train tracks during a no nukes action years ago.  He wrote a poem to get ready.

Arriving at the train tracks, everyone sits. Row after row of young activists and old, blocking the route, hundreds of us.

Sitting, JK and I talk about our lives and travels, about having kids and trying to leave a world for them.  Why are we doing this, she wondered.  Its about the beloved community that we’ve created and enjoyed through the years, extending from the gardens to a larger green commons we all are working to defend, enjoy,  share, and pass on.
Gradually, we hear the trains had been routed elsewhere for the day.  The police seemed to have little interest in arresting anyone.  As the first responders, they seemed to understand that these trains were a mess waiting to happen.

It was a clear victory.

Some of the crew decided to stay the night and start an encampment. Others left.  And more arrived.
It felt good to see that many environmentalists out to do what they could to protect the mother earth for another day. It was great to see the movement opening and bringing in new personalities, as well as intersecting movements.

Next week, we’ll be in Peekskill doing more to push to slow down the AIM pipeline already in the works near Indian Point.  Even the governor wants work to stop on it.  But the decision seems out of his hands.   So we’ll have to do our part to create a solution.

If the government fails to lead, the people will respond, notes one sign.  Keep it in the ground, declared another.  For an afternoon, it was the people of the world, putting their bodies on the line, doing what they could to keep the world a little safer.

A rally, march and mass civil disobedience to stop the explosive fracked oil trains in the Port of Albany was held today by over 1,500 people, from Albany and from as far as Maine, Quebec and central Pennsylvania. —at Port of Albany Albany NY.  Photos and caption Minister Erik R. McGregor

Hundreds of people are blocking the tracks leading to the Port of Albany crude oil facility! ‪#‎BreakFree2016
Others blocking the oil trucks at the Ezra Prentice community--the people at the heart of the injustice.
"When we use our bodies, our very beings to interrupt injustice, it is a powerful thing."
2 actions, 2 livestreams!
Bomb Train Blockade livestream:
Ezra Prentice livstream:

As Rising Tides North America writes:
Dear Benjamin
Escalation begins now.
Last December at the climate talks in Paris, over 200 nations agreed upon a weak and ineffective plan to address climate change.  Governments stripped away language addressing the rights of indigenous peoples to their land. They removed reparations for the Global South. And, worse yet, the agreement emerged lacking real mechanisms to halt runaway climate chaos.
Regardless, the fossil fuel empire marches on with little regard for the people or planet. This week, Shell Oil reported it was responsible for another devastating 90,000 gallon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Pipelines and export terminal projects continue to move forward despite green climate friendly rhetoric from our elected leaders. Coal mines and coal plants continue to operate in many parts of the world. Indigenous and frontline communities continue to carry the heaviest burden of climate change from the Alberta tar sands to the rainforests of Indonesia.
Globally, environmental and social justice movements have reacted with escalations against the fossil fuel sector, the banks that fund them and the politicians that love them. In every part of the world, a climate resistance has taken action to stop the industry and the dire impacts it has on communities and eco-systems.
For the past week, the escalation has come at the fossil fuel empire with people powered action. In Philadelphia, climate justice activists joined with a local community fighting a new oil refinery. In California, farm workers from the ground zero for the state’s fracking industry, Kern County, sat in at Gov. Jerry Brown’s office.  
Today, from the seaways and railways of Cascadia to the streets of Los Angeles to the frack-filled landscape of Colorado to the Port of Albany, NY to Kinder Morgan’s tar sands terminal in Burnaby BC, mass direct action is spreading across the continent targeting Big Oil, Big Gas and Big Coal.
Tomorrow more action will happen in the Midwest, Washington D.C. and beyond It is critical that we continue to escalate. Please help by spreading the word by clicking SHARE on this page.

Thanks for all you do.
In struggle and solidarity, Rising Tide North America


Mr Kink, who is always there for us.  We talked about years of busts together, from New York to Washington DC.


The movement is expanding and expanding.
My friend John Jordan reports:

Just back from ‪#‎endegelaende‬ - 3 days of extraordinary direct action, 3500 people (most refusing to give any Identity when arrested) shutting down Vatenfall's lignite coal mine and power station via bodies on the diggers, on the rail tracks, the conveyor belts and breaking into one of Europe's biggest coal fired power stations.(which resulted in me twisting my ankle and ending up in a and e ) - ‪#‎keepitintheground‬ - watch this video with the VOLUME UP !!! CLIMATE HEROES WE LOVE YOU !!!

Henry Harris
This issue of Democracy Now has a great piece about our actions in the Headlines. A couple thousand people marched. Hundreds of them blockaded State Rte 32 through the South End of Albany, holding a mass Health & Safety rally with community partners A Village, Ezra Prentice Public Housing residents, and supporters of the environmental justice struggle at Ezra Prentice.
Hundreds more blocked the Canada Pacific Railway into the Port of Albany, and 5 brave souls were arrested a...llegedly blockading a moving "1267" oiltrain on the high-traffic CSX railway as it crosses a major local drinking water reservoir. 2 of them put their lives on the line to do so.
All 5 are currently being charged under a serious State Felony. Please stay tuned to for details on how to support. Thanks to everyone who flooded in and were essential to making this happen. You were part of a clear and vital escalation for our regional movement.

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