A group of Olympia protesters has camped out on the rail line that serves the Port of Olympia to stop the transportation of ceramic proppants, also known as fracking sand, to North Dakota.
The group, Olympia Stand, said in a Saturday morning press release that the group had already blocked a train carrying fracking sand from leaving the port Friday. A video sent to The Olympian by Zoltan Grossman shows an engine backing away from a cheering crowd at the intersection of Jefferson Street Southeast and State Avenue Northeast.
The Olympian contacted the Port of Olympia and Genesee & Wyoming Railroad on Saturday, but had not yet received a response about what the train was carrying or where it was headed.
The group spent much of Friday afternoon and evening standing on the rail line, and were joined about 8:30 p.m. by a group that had marched from an anti-Donald Trump protest at the Capitol Campus. The marchers walked through downtown Olympia, stopping to block the two roundabouts at the intersection of Olympic Street West and Fourth Avenue West, and the intersection of Olympic Street West, Harrison Avenue Northwest and West Bay Drive Northwest. They then left the roundabouts and walked to join the protest at the railway.
By Saturday morning, the protesters had shifted their position and gathered on the railway at the intersection of Seventh Avenue Southeast and Jefferson Street Southeast.
About 30 protesters were at the site about 1 p.m., but declined to give names or individual statements to The Olympian. They instead gave the following group statement:
“We are here to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock as a response to their call for support as the indigenous peoples there are being terrorized by police on a daily basis, as well as to protest centuries of neo-colonialism and environmental racism. Furthermore, our goal is to stop the transportation of more fracking materials to North Dakota. Come join us!”
Many in the group had stayed overnight at the train tracks, in a camp constructed from tents and tarps. Several shipping pallets and a couch sat on a portion of track headed toward the Port of Olympia.
Olympia Police Lt. Paul Lower said the protest remained peaceful Friday night and Saturday.
“They’ve kept to themselves for the most part, and I think they’re getting their message across,” Lower said. “We’ve had no reason to go down there.”
If a train does try to pass through the protest, the Olympia Police Department likely wouldn’t get involved. He said that the rail company has its own police department, and any conflicts over rail traffic would involve that department.