• Alex Garland
  • BLOCKING THE TRACKS To protest oil trains through Seattle. Jess Spear (center, sitting) was later arrested.

In a statement ahead of this afternoon's protest, Council Member Kshama Sawant said:

One year ago, a similar train derailed and destroyed half the downtown area in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and led to 42 deaths. The fact that these train tracks run right by the stadiums, and through Belltown, where tens of thousands of people regularly gather, mean that there is potential for major catastrophe.

State house candidate Jess Spear, who's also reportedly blocking the tracks, said:

These oil trains running right through the downtown area pose a huge risk to life and to the environment. Luckily, last week's derailment did not spill any oil; but we cannot rely on luck. We cannot stand idly by while these bombs on wheels roll through Seattle.

We're hearing arrests may be coming, will update when there's more.

UDPATE, 2:26 pm: According Council Member Sawant, Socialist state house candidate Jess Spear was arrested along with two other activists.

"It shows you the importance of non-violent civil disobedience like this," Sawant told The Stranger's Ansel Herz by phone. "And it's happening in the context of the [recent] oil train derailment. There's a real possibility of catastrophe at our doorstep in Seattle... They’re playing Russian roulette with our lives, and we need an immediate moratorium on oil trains in Seattle."

Sawant said she was at the protest "in solidarity with the three activists who have the courage of their convictions. It’s an enormous sacrifice to be arrested to raise awareness… I'm also here as someone who is on the city council and who takes the task of governance seriously. This is a matter of emergency that needs to be addressed."

She said that earlier in the day protesters had moved for an Amtrak train. "We don't want to hold up rail traffic," Sawant said. "We just want oil trains to stop." According to Sawant the protesters were arrested by officers with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, likely for trespassing.

Then, mixing 43rd Legislative District politics with oil train action, Sawant said of Democratic State House Speaker Frank Chopp, who Spear is challenging this election season: "Frank Chopp is not here standing up against oil trains, standing up for the safety and security of the people of Seattle."

UPDATE, 4:32 pm: According to her campaign, Jess Spear is now being held in King County Jail on $500 bond (along with two other activists who were arrested).

Meanwhile, House Speaker Frank Chopp, in response to Council Member Sawant's criticisms and today's protest, tells me:

Rail safety is a priority for House Democrats. I’m working with environmental community leaders to insure that we make progress on this issue.

Earlier this year, the House passed The Oil Transportation Safety Act (HB 2347), sponsored by Representative Jessyn Farrell. This bill is a significant step in protecting our communities from the dangers of oil transport. That is one of many reasons why the Sierra Club and the Washington Conservation Voters have endorsed me.

We have more work to do on this issue and I look forward to working with environmentalists and community leaders to further protect our communities.