Dozens Arrested in Washington State Environmental Protest

May 15, 2016, 8:54 PM UTC

Dozens of people were arrested in Washington state on Sunday, two days after protesters set up a blockade on railroad tracks leading to a pair of oil refineries as part of a global protest over dependence on fossil fuels, authorities said.

The protesters, camping out on BNSF Railway (BNI) tracks at Anacortes, Washington, about 70 miles (113 km) north of Seattle, refused police orders to disperse, said Katie McCulloch, a spokesman for the Skagit County Department of Emergency Management.

All of the 52 protesters under arrest were charged with trespassing, while one person was also charged with resisting arrest, according a statement on the department’s website. No injuries were reported.

Billed as Break Free 2016, the protests on six continents are part of a 12-day campaign to call attention to climate change and to demand a transition to clean energy, according to the organization’s website.

“Break Free is about pressuring the system so we get the change we need, but it’s also about imagining an alternative,” said Ahmed Gaya, an organizer for Break Free Pacific Northwest.

About 150 people began demonstrating on Friday night in Anacortes on tracks leading to Tesoro (TSO) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) refineries. Tesoro spokeswoman Destin Singleton said operations at the refinery were not affected.

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The protesters had about 40 tents on the rail property, said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas. The rail line was shut down during the protests but reopened on Sunday, he said.

“We are happy for them to voice their opinion but we ask them to do it off railroad property,” he said.

Law enforcement officers and BNSF railway police went on to the tracks at about 5 a.m. PDT to remove the protesters, Melonas said.

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Some protesters remained in the area after the arrests, though not on the tracks, McCulloch said. Some were in kayaks and in canoes on nearby waterways, she said.

In Albany, New York, about 1,500 people gathered on Saturday to protest against trains carrying crude oil into the Port of Albany, said Aly Johnson-Kurts, a spokeswoman for Break Free Albany.

The Break Free website on Sunday said the Albany protest was completed but that protests were underway in Chicago near an oil refinery and in Washington D.C., where the group is asking President Barack Obama to stop offshore oil drilling in the Arctic, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

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