Thousands of people around the country protested over the weekend to stop fossil fuels and demand a just transition to an economy that uses 100 percent renewable energy. More than 50 people were arrested in the Pacific Northwest and five others were arrested in upstate New York, where protestors stopped trains carrying crude oil.
Meanwhile, demonstrations in Washington, D.C., Albany, and Los Angeles drew thousands more to the Break Free movement, which brought a coalition of environmental groups together over 12 days of global action and civil disobedience.
On Saturday, five people were arrested in New York after two women suspended themselves from a train trestle where trains cross, carrying crude oil from the Alberta tar sands. Since the ropes were looped over the track, if the the so-called “bomb train” had crossed the bridge, it would have severed the climbers’ ropes. The train was stopped for over two hours, local news sources reported.
Beyond the threat posed by burning the carbon contained in the oil these trains carry, activists are also concerned about what happens when oil trains derail and threaten communities. A train derailed and crashed in the Canadian town of Lac Megantic, destroying the town center and killing 47 people, effectively becoming a “bomb train.”
Across the United States, more than 732 thousand barrels of oil are transported by rail every day.
“The global climate system, on which every human depends, is no longer stable because our governments have utterly failed us,” Marissa Shea, one of the activists, said in a statement. “So now, for our survival, we will act on climate ourselves.”
On Sunday, 52 more people were arrested northwest of Seattle, where they were blocking oil trains.
— Break Free (@BanBombTrains) May 14, 2016
In Albany, activists shut down a train terminal near a low-income community for 12 hours. Police there decided not to make arrests, the organizers said.
— Adam Greenberg (@pragmactivist) May 14, 2016
The movement was part of a worldwide effort. Across the globe, tens of thousands of people participated in all six inhabited continents. Protesters in Indonesia gathered at the Japanese Embassy to oppose financing for coal plants. In Germany, protesters shut down Europe’s largest coal operation at a mine and plant. In the Philippines, 10,000 people marched in the capital against a proposed coal plant. In Australia, a reported $20 million worth of coal shipments were halted by activists, 350.org said.
“This is the hottest year we’ve ever measured, and so it is remarkably comforting to see people rising up at every point of the compass to insist on change,” Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org.
On Friday, NASA reported that the earth just had its hottest January-April on record in the modern era, and April 2016 was the hottest April yet.
“More and more people are joining the fight because they see how fossil fuels are destroying the planet, risking the economy, and creating injustice for local communities,” Wael Hmaidan, the director of Climate Action Network, said in a statement. “The movement is here to stay, there is no end to it, until the final bell tolls for the fossil fuel industry.”