When climate crusader Bill McKibben was here in May, he had a sobering message: we’ve run out of time to educate the masses about the reality of climate issues and the impacts of fossil fuels.
Joel Connelly wrote for Seattle PI that Bill told a crowd in Seattle on May 19th we don’t have the luxury of being polite any more. It’s time to get arrested. But wear a suit.
Jan Woodruff, a retired researcher making her home in Anacortes, missed the memo from Bill on dressing for arrest. But when she sat on the tracks outside the Tesoro refinery on Monday, July 28, to protest unsafe Bakken crude trains rolling through our communities, she looked very much like her model, the Raging Grannies.
Because Jan’s a slacks kind of gal, she had to buy a granny-type dress for the occasion. Luckily, her favorite thrift shop had just the thing -- a blue and white polka dotted number -- and matching pumps. A wide-brimmed hat embellished with the largest silk flower she could find completed the ensemble.
The next day, as soon as I heard about the action, I called Jan, a fellow researcher on crude-by-rail refinery proposals. Jan’s formidable academic skills had contributed greatly to comments on the Shell Anacortes crude-by-rail proposal, which is still in the permitting phase.
Jan was still high as a kite from the excitement of the experience, and giggled like a schoolgirl when I said, “So THAT’s what you meant when you called and invited me to your ‘little action’ you were having.”
She couldn’t tell me more when she called, Jan said, because the action, organized by Rising Tide Seattle, was intended to be spontaneous. Only her neighbors would have noticed the 22 young people who trooped into her house Sunday to spend the night, camping on her floors and sharing two bathrooms, and who filed out the next day to hold signs in support of the three people – including Jan – who would chain themselves together on the tracks as the volunteer arrestees.
Neither BNSF nor the local sheriff were given advance warning, Jan said. Nonetheless, responders were unfailingly polite, negotiating with the trespassers to voluntarily unchain themselves rather than face removal by force.
Being a “granny” apparently did the trick. Once arrested, Jan said she barely felt the station pat-down. “I don’t think they ever did take my fingerprints.” She was barely in her cell five minutes after processing when she heard a quiet tap on the door and a voice asked if she was hungry. Realizing she was starving, Jan gratefully accepted the leftover jailhouse food, she told me.
She doubts she was incarcerated more than an hour before she and her two cohorts were released on their own recognizance, with instructions to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. on August 5th for arraignment.
In a similar action Thursday the 31st, three protesters peacefully allowed themselves to be arrested after sitting on the tracks in Seattle, but there were several differences from the Anacortes action.
First, according to King 5 News, organizers gave Seattle police advance notice they would be at Alaskan Way near the waterfront, so rail carriers would have received advance notice, presumably because the protest was on a main line.
Second, public officials participated in Seattle. Socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant acted as a spokesperson, linking the action to a crude train derailment under the Magnolia Bridge the week before. Socialist candidate for the legislature Jess Spear volunteered to be one of the three people risking arrest.
Finally, according to The Stranger, Spear – wearing nice slacks, a blouse, and sweater – and her compatriots were held on $500 bail.
Maybe if she’d worn a dress ….
[Note: In spite of the light-hearted tone of this article, this is serious business. Rising Tide is engaged in an ongoing campaign of direct action to stop the movement of fossil fuels through the Northwest. Please consider attending court appearances and politely showing support for those who volunteer to risk arrest. There are defense funds being established, and I will update this article when I have a working link. There is a video of the Anacortes action here. To see if you are in the blast radius of an exploding crude train, see Forest Ethics' interactive map here.]