We saw a Direct Action tonight from Water Protectors as the pipeline work began in earnest. This time, thankfully, away from the concentrated pollution on the Port of Tacoma. 12th St East, in Fife, among identikit warehouses and on a public road, we marched, sung songs, prayed and burned sage. There were hundreds of people with us tonight. Hundreds.
March against the Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Facility, we said. Come join us because we need you. That was the cry from the Puyallup Tribes Water Warriors and allies. We know tonight, that our voices were heard.
One Pipeline company, Brotherton, was drilling under the road in order to feed through the Black Snake. The other, Michels, was soldering and laying it. This Snake, by the way, is a 16-inch pipe. The pipe is designed to carry the fracked gas into the facility. There it will be super cooled to -260° F which will turn it into liquid gas at 1/600 the volume. The pipe will allow the gas to flow in either direction.
They were ready for us with a strong police presence as well as private security. We had done some recon yesterday and had surveyed the scene and took some pictures. Work was happening fast.
The only customer that Puget Sound Energy has for the LNG produced at this facility, at the time of writing, is TOTE. Out of all the ships that dock at the Port of Tacoma, LNG will only be used in two ships that dock for a just few hours a week. Even then, they are plugged into electrical power while docked at the port. Because of this, they do not contribute to the poor air quality that ships running on bunker fuels do. The disingenuous line that it will improve air quality at the Port has also been used to sell the project to local unions.
Let’s get real here. With the proposed Methanol plant (remember that?) now about to be built in Kalama, WA, a healthy supply of LNG will be needed to aid production. They talk earnestly about the plant not being an export facility but Kalama is going to produce Methanol for exactly that purpose.
Tonight was incredible. Solidarity and love were evident throughout the evening. This saw the coming together of the Water Warriors with Tacoma activists and more friends from Seattle. The legendary Paul Cheoketen Wagner, fresh from being accepted in traditional protocol at the end of his walk to Protect the Salish Sea led the prayer and the song!
It was an inspirational sight but also one punctuated by sadness. This is something they could probably make movies about. Native Americans singing loud and proudly, buoyed by the solidarity they were experiencing. It was a vivid image, watching them marching triumphantly against the backdrop of heavy machinery digging into Unci Maka. Defiant, they marched and proud they sang. It was touching and enchanting. Haunting in its surreal beauty. It was somber and it was celebratory.
Then the hammer dropped. The air was filled with the cry of “Arrestables,” a rallying cry for Non-Violent Direct Action. Several people linked arms and sat together in front of the heavy machinery, stopping it in its tracks (literally!) This yellow monster was about to pick up a piece of the pipe and drop its poisonous form into place.
A bandana was tied around the face of each brave arrestable. Songs were sung for them. The beat of the drum filled the air in their honor. Prayers were said and speeches were given. The atmosphere was electric and the police and pipeline security looked shocked as a result, unable to respond.
Nerves among many attendees were stretched, not least due to the police Swat teams forming at the other end of the street. Up stepped, Dakota Case of the Puyallup Tribe. He thanked each person that had sat down for their willingness to sacrifice their freedom and for taking that risk on behalf of his people. He congratulated the group on a job well done and told them that due to their efforts, work was stopped for over two hours tonight. Then he explained to them that he wanted them to be free to stand another day. They raised their hands to him in a traditional gesture and then moved off the road.
At this point, the celebratory atmosphere returned. As the cops lined up to defend the pipeline the people came together. Prayers were had, the smell of sage filled the air and the song rang out louder and prouder than ever.