About 250 people gathered at Olympia’s Port Plaza on Saturday, carrying signs reading, “Protect Mother Earth,” “Olympia WA stands with Standing Rock Sioux,” “Fossil Fuel expansion is war,” and “Our port supports oil fracking with our tax $.”
The demonstration came about a month after the Port of Olympia received a shipment of ceramic proppants, also known as fracking sand. The product is sent to North Dakota to aid in the removal of Bakken oil. The September shipment was the first since January 2015, with shipments ceasing due to the drop in oil prices.
Demonstrators who gathered Saturday consisted of Olympia and Thurston county residents, and of tribal members from throughout Western Washington. The group hosting the event, Olympia Confronting Climate Crisis, had hosted several other anti-fracking events in recent weeks, including a march through Olympia Arts Walk on Oct. 7.
Event organizer Zoltan Grossman explained that Saturday’s event was a reaction to the shipment of proppants and a way to show solidarity with protesters in North Dakota.
“We do not want our public port complicit with big oil by contributing to carbon pollution, water contamination, or an oil war against native peoples,” Grossman said.
While the event was centered on the Port of Olympia’s involvement in fracking, speakers at the event also referenced other ways Washington is involved in the oil industry. For example, Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp expressed her concern with oil shipping terminals proposed for the Port of Grays Harbor.
Others drew inspiration from the Standing Rock protest, which has drawn thousands to North Dakota since August. The protest began with the Standing Rock Sioux, who worry that a recently permitted pipeline will contaminate drinking water.
“We need to stand with Native peoples and their efforts to protect water, and our planet to have a future for our children and grandchildren,” said event organizer Sue Gunn, a former Port of Olympia commissioner.