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Oil and coal train protest shuts down BNSF tracks in Spokane

Three people were arrested during an oil train protest along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail lines that run through Spokane on Sept. 29, 2016. (Nina Culver / The Spokesman-Review)
Three people were arrested during an oil train protest along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail lines that run through Spokane on Sept. 29, 2016. (Nina Culver / The Spokesman-Review)

Three people were arrested Thursday evening in a protest against oil and coal trains that shut down the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks near Trent Avenue and Napa Street.

This protest, organized by Veterans for Peace, is the second in Spokane in the last month. The first was organized by the Raging Grannies and also saw three people arrested.

About a dozen protesters gathered on the tracks in front of a stopped train to speak against oil and coal trains as well as global warming. “I’m here to witness to my faith,” said the Rev. George Taylor, a Lutheran pastor. “Oil and coal trains are an abomination to the Lord.”

The stopped train visible on the tracks was pulling a large number of what appeared to be oil tanker cars. BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said he would not confirm what the train was carrying. Three trains were halted by the protest, he said.

A BNSF police officer warned the crowd to disperse and most of them did. The three remaining – Taylor, activist Rusty Nelson and Maevea Aeolus – were arrested and face charges of trespassing and blocking a train.

Nancy Nelson, who was arrested and charged after the first protest last month, said her husband Rusty was arrested because things like speaking out at council meetings, signing petitions and writing letters wasn’t working.

“We have to do what we can,” she said. “In our minds they are death trains.”

Melonas said people are welcome to speak their mind about oil trains, but the company asks that people not block the train tracks.

“It’s extremely dangerous as well as disruptive,” he said.


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