Arrests made after Occupy Bellingham protesters ‘lock’ themselves on the railroad tracks
While Occupy protests around the country have been marked with arrests, and sometimes violence, today was the first day Bellingham Police made arrests during any of Occupy Bellingham’s demonstrations.
Twelve protestors were arrested this afternoon, five of whom had to be cut free from self-applied bicycle locks around their necks. The five young men had linked themselves together using U-lock type locks around their neck so as not be removed from their location on the railroad tracks owned by BNSF Railways. Other members of the group would periodically bring them water and drape them with blankets.
Today’s demonstration, they say, was to show support for other Occupy groups up and down the West Coast who today made an effort to disrupt traffic at some of the region’s largest ports. But a comparably small group like Occupy Bellingham doesn’t have the man power to close off an entire port, said one of the group’s organizers, Shane Roth. So instead, members of the group set their sights on the railroad tracks between Roeder Ave. and Holly St., at the intersection of C St.
“I was not expecting this. Wow,” Roth said. “This is a very ingenuous use of resources. Fortunately, BNSF is also concerned for their safety and have stopped the trains.”
The protestors had at least one train delayed for up to five hours, which they said was just a small victory for the day, but that there was more to be done.
For protestor Zachary Robinson, who was one of the last to be cut free, the threat of being arrested was a small concern. As an American citizen, he said, it was his privilege to exercise his voice for himself and for those who couldn’t.
“Even though I’m part of the 99 percent, I’m still part of the top 20 percent,” Robinson said.
The protesters signs were an amalgamation of some of the issues individual Occupiers support. For many in Bellingham, the prospective Gateway Pacific Terminal project went hand in hand with today’s demonstration.
“We can’t have this train coming through, we can’t have this coal port,” Robinson said.
More importantly, said some of the linked-together protestors was how they were going to be arrested.
The protestors said they told police they would leave voluntarily at 6 p.m. this evening, in time for the Amtrack train, but officers said that wasn’t soon enough. Initially, officers said the protestors needed to move by 2 p.m. At about 3 p.m., police began giving warnings that they would soon be arresting protestors, and extra support teams were brought in. Initial arrests were made shortly after 3:30.
Before all the remaining protestors could be arrested, Bellingham Police had to cut the ties binding them together. Using a small metal saw-like tool, officers separated the protestors, and the final ones were arrested just after 5 p.m. They were arrested on suspicion of second-degree trespass and obstructing an officer, said Lt. Mike Johnston. Johnston said they would remain in the Whatcom County Jail overnight and would see a judge in the morning.
Multiple arrests were also made in Seattle after similar protests caused delays to BNSF trains, and the Longview port was basically shut down for the day.