Six protesters connected to the Tacoma Direct Action were arrested Wednesday morning, May 17, after they reportedly chained themselves to construction equipment at the construction site of Puget Sound Energy’s 8 million gallon liquefied natural gas facility at the corner of East 11th Street and Alexander Avenue East on the Tideflats.
The protesters were booked into Pierce County Jail on charges of malicious mischief in the first degree, criminal trespass in the first degree and obstruction in the first degree, Tacoma Police Department spokeswoman Loretta Cool said. All are felonies. They are not being identified because they have not been formally charged for what organizers called acts of non-violent civil disobedience.
The incident started around 5:30 a.m. when the protestors allegedly entered the 30-acre construction site and used bike locks to chain themselves to an auger used to drive deep holes into the ground. Crews were not allowed to start work for the day and called police to have the protestors removed from the private property while a few dozen other protests associated with Direct Action Tacoma and RedLine Tacoma waved signs and streamed live video of the arrests on Facebook. The six protesters were removed from the site about 10 a.m. and the protesters on the sidewalk outside the fence line disbursed. No one outside the fenceline was arrested.
“This is Tacoma’s Standing Rock,” Puyallup Tribal member Chester Earl said, noting that the increased number and size of dangerous chemical facilities on the Tideflats is alarming many tribal members and nearby residents. “If one of those goes then all of them go.”
Tribal member Jim Rideout said he hopes the protests increase in an effort to raise awareness about the rising danger of accidents, explosions and environmental damage on the Tideflats, which are largely within the tribal reservation borders.
“The awareness isn’t there,” he said, noting that Wednesday’s protest was his third. “Activism isn’t a job but it has to be done.”
Protests at the site have been increasing in recent weeks as PSE moves forward with construction of the facility as it seeks final permits under legal challenges. The site is projected to provide LNG to TOTE ships sailing between Tacoma and Alaska as well as provide storage for residential and business use during times of extreme weather.
Environmental groups have questioned the environmental impact of the facility on the waterway, the safety of an 8 million gallon tank of natural gas being located so close to residential areas and the overall impact of dependence on fossil fuels.
“Tacoma City Council, the Port of Tacoma, the state legislators and the Utility and Transportation Board have ignored the voice of the people of Tacoma for over a year,” Redline stated in a release about the protest. “It is patently unjust that the rich and powerful should proceed with a project that will cause harm to our people, our environment, and the greater Salish Sea.”