The “Break Free” international day of action brings thousands to protest oil refineries

Day 1

Friday –  May 13th, 2016

Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein gets a kayaktivism training before hitting the water with the luminary flotilla, demanding a transition to renewable energy using LED light panels and paper lantern globes to send their message.


Day 2

Saturday – May 14th, 2016

Under the cover of darkness, environmental activists met at Farm to Market road and Highway 20 and began putting their lives on the line in protest of fossil fuels. The railroad blockade took over BNSF tracks leading to the Shell and Tesoro oil refineries at March Point, near Anacortes, Washington. Over 100 people blocked the tracks, they locked to a van, set up tents, and erected scaffolding to prevent an average of 100 oil tankers per day from reaching their destination. Four tents with composting toilets lined the tracks allowing campers privacy, while volunteers, self described as “scarabs”, gathered buckets when full for proper disposal. Despite false reports by some media outlets, trash was regularly picked up, removed, and properly disposed of, even going so far as to separate compost, recycling, and trash. Being environmentalists, banners, signs, and even bedding were made from recycled items.



While over 100 activists blocked rail lines, over 1000 activists and indigenous leaders marched almost 8 miles past the Shell and Tesoro refineries in protest of continued research and exploration for fossil fuels instead of concentrating on renewable energy. The Swinomish people, who were the traditional stewards of the land occupied by the oil refineries, lost their land when President Grant took it in 1873 by executive order. Now the waters are so toxic they can no longer gather shellfish.


Activists committed to the rail blockade stayed again for a second night as they were joined by others with tents, bringing the numbers for night two close to 200 people occupying railroad tracks. The determination of the protestors was as high as their spirits, as they sat on and around the scaffolding and road crossing, singing songs and eating donated food. Determined in their attempt at a transition from fossil fuel to coal, activists were confident in their mission of disrupting the fossil fuel industry. You can read more about the “Just Transition” movement here,


Day 3

Sunday – May 15th, 2016

The next day at 5:30am, activists were roused from their tents by almost 50 armed riot police and given the option to leave or be arrested. Many chose to stay, holding on to “lock boxes” which make it difficult for police to separate protestors. Police are often forced to use rescue saws to remove the metal wrapped tubes from activists. This display of civil disobedience ended with the arrest of 52 activists and several trespass charges.


As those who were arrested were being released, hundreds more gathered at Seafarer’s Memorial Park in Anacortes, Washington to take Fidalgo Bay by kayak. Banners were lifted, a kayaktivist was safely pulled from the water by fellow kayaktivists after a roll, and a beach on March Point was landed on by kayaktivists to raise banners while being greeted by State Troopers in riot gear. The winds picked up and white caps rolled in but all activists in kayaks made it back to shore safely, concluding the activism portion of the weekend. Almost 2000 activists were reported to have taken part in the activism and support roles over the weekend in Anacortes but many thousands more held events across the globe in a effort to “Break Free” from fossil fuels.


Native Americans gather in Seattle to protest disenrollment of Nooksack tribal members

April 18th, 2016

As the sun warmed the streets of Seattle on a hot Monday afternoon, Indigenous people from around the Pacific Northwest gathered at Westlake Park for a rally in protest of disenrollment of 306 members of the Nooksack tribe and other tribes around the United States who have diesenrolled tribal members. The rally included speakers from the Nooksack tribe, tribal leaders from the Snoqualmie tribe, and disenrolled members from tribes throughout Washington.

I asked Matt Remle, writer and editor at about disenrollment. “In the 1930’s after the US gov forced US citizenship on tribes there was a bill passed called the Indian Reorganization Act, which forced tribes to develop tribal governments and dissolve traditional forms of government. The purpose was mainly to create a puppet tribal [governments] that would serve to basically rubber stamp allowing corporations to take resources from reservations despite broader tribal opposition. This lead to some pretty horrific internal battles over the decades where tribal [governments] acting on behalf of US corporate interest would stifle opposition with the support of the Feds. The stand off at Wounded Knee II in the 70’s is probably the most high profile example. I see disenrollment as a new chapter in silencing/stifling dissent.”


Matt Remle speaks about disenrollment at the Norton Building in Seattle.

Robert Upham spoke to the crowd about his personal experience with disenrollment. His grandmother (by adoption, not birth) passed on a piece of land to him as a child, but because of he was adopted he couldn’t own land belonging to his grandmother’s tribe. “There’s a lot of Indians that say, ‘this doesn’t matter, it’s what you feel in your heart’. It’s not like that. When I was a little kid, I couldn’t own land. Guess what, when I grew up, I couldn’t run for tribal council…Citizenship is more than what’s in your heart, it’s how you care for each other…This kind of meeting needs to be done at National Congress of American Indians.” Upham went on to remind the crowd to think seven generations ahead and explained his view on the situation. “I think this blood quantum, or where you’re born, or who your parents were, is a type of political positioning that makes it competitive for Indian people from the day we are born. Nobody else has to go through those kind of guidelines.”


Robert Upham shares his experience with disenrollment to a crowd at Westlake Park in Seattle.

The protest then took the streets from Westlake Park to 5th Avenue, down Madison and South on 2nd Avenue, ending at the Norton building, home to Morisset, Schlosser, Jozwiak, and Somerville law offices, the attorneys involved in the disenrollment of Nooksack tribal members. The march was flanked by SPD on bicycle and led by SPD on motorcycles who blocked streets and directed traffic along the route. After arrival at the Norton building, a few additional speakers addressed the crowd. A few minutes after arrival, a security guard at the Norton building instructed a handful of Native people to move from where they were sitting to the sidewalk 8 feet away, as they were on “private property”. Most decided to continue sitting and the property manager of the building instructed them to move, and they again refused. SPD was called over from where they parked their bicycles across the street, but no arrests were made and the demonstration came to a close soon after.

I asked Idle No More organizer, Sweetwater Nannauck, what her opinions were on the situation.”Native American tribes are sovereign and set their own rules regarding tribal enrollment and membership. In addition, enrollment or membership requirements often can be found in tribal constitutions or tribal codes. Most tribes have blood quantum and/or lineage requirements. Some are based on the Census or the allotment of land.”

Nannauck continued, “Disenrolled members have appealed to federal courts and sometimes to state courts, often though there is no recourse. This is a modern day form of cultural genocide that is a huge injustice and goes against our original teachings and tribal values. Shielded by ‘tribal sovereignty’, fueled by greed, and inflicted upon ancestors, entire families, and even the children who are our future. This cultural genocide should not be tolerated and actions must be taken to rectify this situation immediately.”


Sweetwater Nannauck speaks to the crowd at Westlake Park in Seattle about disenrollment and it’s affects on tribal members.

While the enrollment requirements vary from tribe to tribe, the 306 Nooksack tribal members facing disenrollment feel they deserve recognition, regardless of results based on Census Bureau data, which can be spotty, or blood quantum that ignore those adopted into different tribes or disenfranchise those with a mixed heritage. Carolyn Lubeneau, Chairwoman of Snoqualmie Tribe, and someone who experienced disenrollment first hand stated, “I speak to you of the love I have for all Indian people and how much I admire and respect each and everyone for the struggles they have had to endure. My passion is to educate about this sickness of disenrolling families, children, and elders from their culture, from what sustains them.” Lubeneau ended her speech by calling for an amendment to the Indian Civil Rights Act and an enforcement of those laws and a protection of their human rights.

I asked Matt Remle what the next steps were in the new era of disenrollments and he responded, “Several tribal governments have begun taking to the passing laws to outright ban disenrollments, so if nothing else, all the attention paid to this issue will help stop the practice.


Remle and Nannauck pose for a photo at the end of the march to protest tribal disenrollment.

For additional photos and information, check out these articles…

Chinook Denounces Disenrollment by Gabe Galanda

Thousands “Feel The Bern” In Seattle

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The official numbers say 17,350 people stood in line throughout Seattle Center to see Bernie Sanders, the Independent Senator from Vermont, now running against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries for the mysteriously coveted position of President of The United States. While only 10,350 people made it indoors, an estimated 7,000 people watched from the overflow area outside.

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Bernie Sanders made a brief appearance outside to speak with the crowd before addressing the crowd inside for almost an hour. His speech touched on issues of racial, social, environmental and economic justice and a need for compassion and understanding, stating “love trumps hatred”.  He talked about the need to end Citizens United by saying “We now have a campaign finance system which is corrupt, which is undermining American democracy”.

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The crowd was packed with people across the spectrum of age, ability, race, class, gender, ethnicity, and religion, yet not a single fight broke out. It seemed that despite the rain, the long lines, the security procedures, and the diversity, people got along. Even when a lone person of color in the crowd raised the Palestinian flag, which one could only guess was in protest of Sanders support of current Israeli/American relations, the crowd reacted calmly or not at all. There were no racial epithets or punches thrown, it was a rally of cheers and smiles, the occasional “boo” where appropriate, and a rush of energy and excitement.

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Sanders ended the event with a rallying cry to Washington voters, “The big money interest, quite truly, do not want people to participate in the political process. They understand that if you working people don’t vote, and the young people don’t vote, the big money interest will always win. Well, next Saturday, let’s give them a miserable day.” (which led to massive cheering) “Let us have a record breaking turnout here in Washington and if we do, we’re going to win in Washington and help make the political revolution. Thank you very much.”

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You can watch the entire event as recorded by PhotonFactory on Livestream here…

Camp Dearborn Evicted And Homeless Community Scattered


At approximately 8am this morning, the Seattle Police Department began evictions and removal of personal property from the Dearborn encampment. The residents were given 30 minutes to pack their belongings although city officials say the police have been giving warnings all week. The Nickelsville homeless encampment was previously approved by the city but has since lost that status after the ouster of Scott Morrow by the residents of the camp. Morrow, who is a large part of the staff that runs Nickelsville, has previously faced accusations from unhappy camp residents. That path that lead to the dismantling of Camp Dearborn and the eviction of it’s residents is nuanced and complicated.

Sharon Lee, the executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) said residents were “being offered a place to say” in three other city sanctioned encampments if they were willing to follow the rules set up by SHARE and Nickelsville. The three city sanctioned encampments offered are in Othello Village (South Seattle), Interbay (Middle of Nothing),  and Ballard (Northwest Seattle). In one case, 12 bus tickets (or 6 days worth of transportation) were provided to a resident who worked nearby. Those with addictions however, have few options, one being the Downtown Emergency Services Center, which some would argue is not much of an option.


After the eviction and clean-up began, Sharon Lee emailed photos of found needles and mentioned in an email that “16 people were here. 8 people agreed to move to Othello Village and abide by Nickelsville code of conduct–including a mother and son who arrived 3 days ago.” When asked about the needles being used for drugs or possibly diabetic injections, Lee replied “Needles were found in lots of different locations. This is drug use. One couple we moved both are totally high. Hard liquor bottles everywhere too. Drug paraphernalia in tents and sheds”.

IMG_3207(Image courtesy of Sharon Lee)

Sharon Lee, executive director of LIHI and Scott Lindsay, public safety adviser to Mayor Murray, spoke to the press for a few minutes during the eviction.


Heidi Groover does a much better job of explaining the situation

“March For Bernie2” Brings #movement4bernie to the Streets of Seattle

Echoing chants of thousands marching in 45 cities brings Bernie Sanders message to the masses in Seattle. Between 600-800 activists, community members, union workers, labor leaders, organizers, and one goat, gathered at Occidental Park in Seattle to rally in support of Bernie Sanders as the democratic nominee for the 2016 presidential election. Demonstrators then marched from Pioneer Square to Westlake Park with stops at the King County Administration Building and Wells Fargo, flanked by lines of bicycle police. At Westlake, community organizers, labor leaders, and Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant spoke to the crowd. You can hear Sawant’s speech below.



Black Lives Matter Activists Disrupt Protest for NYPD Officer Peter Liang

Several hundred Chinese Americans gathered at Westlake Park to protest the firing, charges, and possible jail sentence for Peter Liang, found guilty of manslaughter in the death of 28 year old Akai Gurley. Protesters suggested the discharge of officer Liang’s gun was an accident and the firing and charges were to appease racial tensions between NYPD and the black community. Activists also discussed the need for accountability across the board in cases of police shootings and that had Liang been white, the NYPD may have sided with him instead of firing him.

Almost a dozen Black Lives Matter activists interrupted in the event by making their way to the stage while talking on a bullhorn. Despite shouts of anger from the crowd, organizers eventually provided a microphone and gave the Black Lives Matter activists time to speak over the PA system. Some in support of Liang attempted to block the speakers with signs but Black Lives Matter activists made their message clear over the shouts. Officers with the Seattle Police Department eventually spoke with Black Lives Matter activists and they soon left the stage. There were no arrests.

When speaking with Black Lives Matter organizer Palca Shibale regarding concerns by Peter Liang supporters that a Chinese American officer was targeted specifically and that all officers should be held accountable, she responded “Yes, minority police officers are often more likely to be charged and convicted of crimes relative to white counterparts. All police should be held accountable but that is not accomplished by rallying to free Peter Liang for the murder of Akai Gurley.” When asked about the argument that since “the tragedy” was an accident, no crime was committed, Shibale replied “To say that no crime was committed is to ironically refuse recognition that Akai Gurley is dead. The term accident is also debatable. Is it also an accident that he failed to call an ambulance and on time out of fear of professional backlash? Regardless, the term manslaughter means without murderous intent. The argument that it is an “Accident” falls well under this category.

Statement from Black Lives Matter organizer Palca Shibale


Yesterday, I was in a meeting with 4 of the organizers of the Peter Liang rally for seattle. It was an attempt to talk about the antiblackness of the event in hopes that this particular group of organizers would choose to cease support for Liang

After hours of dialogue and debate, no one was moved. So with 24 hours to go before the rally, Seattle Black book Club and Parisol partnered up for a counterally that we intended to structure for cross dialogue.

However when we got there, organizers would not even allow us to speak without censoring the message. We were not allowed to say “Peter Liang is a killer” or any sort of words that might humanize Akai too much that he overshadows Liang ‪#‎antiblackness‬

We all werent having it. We were vastly outnumbered but that didn’t stop us from marching on stage through the crowd and the hoards of folks attempting to stop us (Yall it was really rad!!!) And getting our message through improptu. ‪#‎disruptthestatusquo‬

What a powerfully intense scene! We held some serious space in this disruption. Which im honestly still surprised we pulled off so well given the opposition.But you could not ignore our unified message yall!!

From this disruption, Steps are now already being taken for a space of continued dialogue with the organizers and various community members who showed up in support of Liang.

There is always more need and more room to build even more unity with other marginalized populations of color against against a unified enemy. ‪#‎WhiteSupremacy‬ hurts both of our communities. Today was needed.

Much love to our Chinese allies a Parisol // Pacific Rim Solidarity Network. Much love to Seattle Black Book Club folks. What a powerful powerful powerful force and outcome we all held by sticking together.”