By LARRY FOX
Thanks to The Record for the recent article about the Break Free event in Anacortes. I am aware of at least 27 persons from South Whidbey who were in attendance.
This event, sponsored by Break Free From Fossil Fuels, is best described as a three-day conference/celebration/protest. Most widely reported was the protest occupation of the railroad track east of Anacortes refineries along Highway 20 by 150 people who camped, parked a van, and erected a scaffold over these tracks which serve the two Anacortes refineries. This action was in protest of our reliance on fossil fuels which are a major contributor to global warming and climate change. In addition, it was to dramatize to the residents of Skagit Valley the proposed expansion of the Shell refinery which will result in a huge increase in the rail traffic carrying volatile Bakken crude. There was much less coverage given to the celebration aspect of this event.
On Saturday, somewhere between 1,000 (police estimate) and 2,000 (organizers’ figure) walked three miles to the tip of March Point, led by Native Americans from several tribes. The marchers were joined by around 50 “kayaktivists” who paddled there from Anacortes. There was drumming, chanting, singing and several speeches, reminding the participants that this land was originally native land and that the original inhabitants had practiced an ethic of taking care of the land for the seventh generation. Many participants have mentioned the inspiring spiritual nature of this celebration and pointed to the overflight of seven eagles as confirmation of that view.
Probably the least known part of the event was the climate conference held all three days in the event center at the Port of Anacortes. Planned for both visitors and citizens of Anacortes, informational workshops included: High Incidence of Cancer in Skagit County; Oceans, Estuaries, and Climate Change; What Does a Just Transition Look Like?; Mobilization for 100 Percent Renewables; and others. There was entertainment: The Climate Monologues, a one-woman show of story and song; a folk and alternative rock musician, Dana Lyons; and a Luminary Procession for the Salmon, an evening parade of lanterns and salmon wind socks through the streets. And there was a community salmon dinner. In addition, there were training sessions in the tactics of non-violent direct action, stressing that in all that was done it was to be non-violent in word and deed.
Your story began by mentioning a fear amongst some on North Whidbey that persons would be dangling from the Deception Pass Bridge. Prior to the event I noticed considerable fear (and anger) amongst the people of Anacortes, as reflected in social media postings and Skagit Transit’s cancellation of its Anacortes routes, not only for Friday and Saturday, but also for Thursday. Unfortunately, that led many in that community to not attend the workshops and discussions around not only the global aspects of climate change, but also the local impact of Shell’s planned expansion.
I applaud that your article was factual and balanced. Other media reports often focus on the sensational. I would have appreciated some interviews of local participants (and the addition of one zero in the headline, making it 1,000, rather than 100.)
For those wishing to access a broader and more comprehensive view of this event, I suggest you visit www.breakfreepnw.org and click on the video recap at the top and the bottom picture for a 186-picture trip through the weekend. See for yourself.
Editor’s note: Larry Fox is a Freeland resident.