On Thursday, September 17th, members of Northern Rockies Rising Tide and Blue Skies Campaign staged a peaceful blockade in order to prevent a coal train from entering the Missoula rail yard in an act of nonviolent protest against Montana coal export projects that threaten the health of rail line communities and the global climate. The action is part of a wider nationwide movement called Flood the System, which is mobilizing people across the US this fall to call for real climate solutions in the lead-up to December’s UN climate change negotiations in Paris.
Two community members, Lee Van de Water and Shannon Curry, locked their arms together and refused to move for the mile long coal train. With other participants, Lee and Shannon were able to hold space on the tracks for an hour, preventing it from moving towards its west coast destination. After refusing to leave and going limp, both were cited and released for trespassing.
“We refuse to let such a beautiful place be completely destroyed,” stated blockader Shannon Curry.
Lee Van de Water added, “we’re acting today because no one in power has made a meaningful effort to address the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels.
The groups present were drawing attention to the role that the state of Montana plays in curbing any further rise in global temperatures. The pool of carbon present in Montana coal is a significant portion of the remaining coal that needs to be left in the ground, which many world scientists agree is the most important step in minimizing the predicted effects of climate change.
While world leaders continue to fail to agree on a just and effective climate deal, and politicians like Montana’s US Senator Steve Daines deny the scientific reality of human-caused climate change, groups like Rising Tide and Blue Skies Campaign are confronting the root causes of the climate crisis by calling for an end to the extraction and combustion of coal, oil, and other fossil fuels.
Actions against coal train traffic have taken place twice before on railroad property in Missoula, in March and August of last year. Thursday’s action was an escalation of nonviolent tactics, creating momentum that the groups involved in the protest hope will continue far into the fall.
Blue Skies Campaign, a Resist grantee, “is using creative direct action and grassroots organizing tactics to build a movement for a better future. Our goal is to protect the great State of Montana and its citizens from pollution caused by the mining, transport, burning, and export of coal, while building a sustainable and resilient economy.”