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Olympia anti-fracking protest settles into camp on railroad tracks

Protesters against fracking in North Dakota have set up an encampment blocking the rail line from the Port of Olympia on Seventh Avenue and Jefferson Street Southeast.
Protesters against fracking in North Dakota have set up an encampment blocking the rail line from the Port of Olympia on Seventh Avenue and Jefferson Street Southeast. sbloom@theolympian.com

An anti-fracking protest that began Friday apparently prevented a train from leaving town the same day, and settled into a makeshift camp Sunday in the area of Seventh Avenue and Jefferson Street. That location is in downtown Olympia, not far from the train tunnel that runs underneath the city.

The anti-fracking group calls itself Olympia Stand. A reporter and photographer tried to interview those at the camp and take pictures Sunday, but a woman who met both said that no one would be giving individual interviews. She also declined to have her picture taken. Instead, she issued the same statement that the group previously issued.

“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!”

The number of people at the camp Sunday appeared to be about 20. An official with the port could not be reached Sunday.

Standing Rock refers to a site in North Dakota where many have gathered to protest the Dakota Access pipeline. A portion of North Dakota is home to the Bakken formation, a large underground oil deposit that has been accessed and is being removed through a process called fracking. Part of that process involves inserting ceramic proppants into the ground so that it “props” up the soil for drillers to access the oil.

The Port of Olympia handles the proppants, also known as fracking sand, for a company called Rainbow Ceramics of China and Houston. Once imported, the product is sent by rail to North Dakota. It was a steady business for the port in 2014, then slowed as the price of oil fell. The port had one shipment in 2015 and recently had another in September.

The port commission is set to meet for its regularly scheduled meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, 626 Columbia St. NW, Suite 1-B.

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