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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Legislative Candidate Jess Spear Arrested Blocking Downtown Oil Train Tracks; Chopp Responds

Posted by on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 2:09 PM

  • 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.


Comments (48) RSS

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wisepunk 1
This is why it took me 75 minutes to get from Georgetown to downtown for my chiro appointment today.
Posted by wisepunk on July 31, 2014 at 2:18 PM · Report this
Run them over.
Posted by With my carbon footprint on July 31, 2014 at 2:18 PM · Report this
So, build a pipeline then.
Posted by We have an energy economy to rev up on July 31, 2014 at 2:20 PM · Report this
If we're lucky, they'll get run down by one of the many coal trains that run through.
Posted by Pixie dust is not an energy source on July 31, 2014 at 2:23 PM · Report this
JonnoN 5
@1 highly doubtful.

Arrests have now happened, but that's all I know.
Posted by JonnoN on July 31, 2014 at 2:32 PM · Report this
Fnarf 6
I'm not too fond of oil trains, either, but the constant comparisons to the derailment in Quebec are just stupid. That train ran unattended down a steep grade for many miles into that town, reaching a speed of more than 60 MPH, and was on fire to boot. While there are (scant) possibilities for disaster here, it won't be one like that. At 5 MPH with next-generation tanker cars on level ground the risks are vastly lower.

If Sawant and Spear wanted to make a difference on this issue, they'd be participating in or at least following the Washington State Freight Mobility Plan -- there's a public meeting tomorrow, in fact -- or the ongoing hearings about rail cars, or some other aspect of freight infrastructure planning. But they aren't, because they don't. Bullshit like this doesn't accomplish anything.
Posted by Fnarf on July 31, 2014 at 2:57 PM · Report this
@1, there was a tanker truck accident on I-5 near Georgetown, with about a half dozen cars pulled over and a bunch of people on the shoulder, at about 9am
Posted by jt on July 31, 2014 at 2:59 PM · Report this
@5 Trains can't move, so they sit on tracks, blocking traffic throughout South Seattle. Spend more than a half hour in Georgetown and you'd understand that.
Posted by CascadianGopher on July 31, 2014 at 3:01 PM · Report this
BombasticMO 9
@6) That's just bullshit pessimism for pessimism's sake. Of course protest like this matter, because they draw attention to an issue aggressively more than a blog or blog comment can alone.

Case in point: Sightline has been covering this aggressive problem for a year now.…

Took some arrests to get attention to the matter. And candidates running for office getting arrested is drastically more newsworthy than just plain-old activists.

To pretend these things don't blow up is willful ignorance.
Posted by BombasticMO on July 31, 2014 at 3:03 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 10
I respect non violent civil disobedience as a way to bring attention to important issues that are not being addressed.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on July 31, 2014 at 3:04 PM · Report this
BombasticMO 11
Also, did I use the word aggressive yet? I'm really into it.
Posted by BombasticMO on July 31, 2014 at 3:05 PM · Report this
@9 thank you so much for responding to @6! I couldn't agree more. THIS IS WHAT I LOVE ABOUT SEATTLE. People are actually trying to make change rather than just bitch about it.

Sawant is right, we should be thankful there are folks willing to make such a sacrifice the majority of us would never make. There is immense power when people join together - they can make change - it has happened before. You just need to have those courageous few who are willing to go out there and take the first step.

I applaud them and their passion. We should be inspired and look for more ways to join together because there are more of US than them. Oftentimes we're too busy being distracted by our differences when we actually share more common enemies.

These ladies f'in ROCK!
Posted by iheartalgore on July 31, 2014 at 3:15 PM · Report this
@9 thank you so much for responding to @6! I couldn't agree more. THIS IS WHAT I LOVE ABOUT SEATTLE. People are actually trying to make change rather than just bitch about it.

Sawant is right, we should be thankful there are folks willing to make such a sacrifice the majority of us would never make. There is immense power when people join together - they can make change - it has happened before. You just need to have those courageous few who are willing to go out there and take the first step.

I applaud them and their passion. We should be inspired and look for more ways to join together because there are more of US than them. Oftentimes we're too busy being distracted by our differences when we actually share more common enemies.

These ladies f'in ROCK!
Posted by iheartalgore on July 31, 2014 at 3:18 PM · Report this
Also, @6: note that to upgrade to new "next Gen" cars is costly, so oil companies still use the shitty, old school DOT-111 tankers and use of new cars is marginal. Also Bakken Shale deposits comparatively are a lot more flammable. IMHO, the DOT-111s with Bakken crude are bombs on rails.
Posted by #OO on July 31, 2014 at 3:29 PM · Report this
wisepunk 15
I left for my 12 noon apt, which I get to skip lunch for, at 11:30. I usually can get there in about 15 minutes. There was a stopped train, with oil cars and freight, between 1st and 4th. Traffic was backed up to almost the railroad bridge on 1st.

While I am completely against these trains and the proposed increase of them through DT, screwing up traffic in the DT core isn't helping the cause. It's just going to piss off a lot of people who are going to vote on things later this year.
Posted by wisepunk on July 31, 2014 at 3:30 PM · Report this
Fnarf 16
@12, you and your buddy @9 completely miss my point, as usual.

It is these protesters, in fact, who are doing nothing. They're not "making change" at all. They're annoying the crap out of people who are disposed in favor of their point of view.

In the meantime there are real discussions going on that Sawant and Spear are not a party to. Do they want to "ban oil trains"? Do they have any idea who has the power to do that? Have they talked to them? No, of course not. They're out yelling in the street. And thus, the decisions get made with the input of just about everyone except the Sawants and Spears of this world.

Hint: getting written up in The Stranger is not effective action.
Posted by Fnarf on July 31, 2014 at 3:39 PM · Report this
Whether you like Spear or not, it's a good political move for her.

I am not educated about the issue of safety with these oil tankers. If what Fnarf says is true -- and he often is accurate -- then it's a matter of regulation so that ONLY the safe tankers are in use. In that case the safety issue would go away. No?

The larger issue is whether we should be using oil or exporting at all. Is stopping oil trains is an effective tactic on that larger strategic question? Seems dubious. Then again, I am new to the subject.
Posted by caution&daring on July 31, 2014 at 3:39 PM · Report this
I'm still waiting to learn about Jess Spear's contributions to the civic life of Seattle, beyond the narrow confines of her Socialist Alternative Party.

So far, nothing but crickets chirping….
Posted by RDPence on July 31, 2014 at 3:42 PM · Report this
tainte 19
So this was a publicity stunt for spear's campaign?
Posted by tainte on July 31, 2014 at 3:59 PM · Report this
wilbur@work 20
stupid stunt, but she really does have great hair!

Unfortunately, as WisePunk notes, she just pissed off a whole bunch of people in the south end who might actually give a shit enough to vote for her.

Glad I didn't, she's a dumbass just seeking publicity for her campaign.
Posted by wilbur@work on July 31, 2014 at 4:03 PM · Report this
Wonder if the railroad knew of this in advance? I live north of the city and can easily hear the trains going through at night. The other night I heard more trains go through than I've ever heard. I timed them at one point and the trains were about 30 minutes apart in the wee hours after midnight. Never heard this level of activity before.
Posted by Purrl on July 31, 2014 at 4:25 PM · Report this
Rotten666 22
@18 Agreed...I watched an interview with her online and all I got is that she was recently a volunteer coordinator. So...yeah.

Posted by Rotten666 on July 31, 2014 at 4:35 PM · Report this

Why can't the train take the Empire Builder tracks, and avoid Seattle -- and South Washington -- altogether?

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on July 31, 2014 at 4:43 PM · Report this
@1, @8, @20, etc.,

The insanely terrible traffic on every southerly route into downtown between 9:15 and noon today was apparently runoff from Blue Angels practice hours, which closed the I-5 to I-90 ramps slightly earlier than announced.

So... blame patriotism?
Posted by d.p. on July 31, 2014 at 4:54 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 25
I love Chopp's response. Maybe he'll be inspired by Spear to print up a bunch of plastic banners emblazoned with his own face and name.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on July 31, 2014 at 5:09 PM · Report this
What happen in Quebec was horrible, but this protest is stupid. More people die in Wa because of Bike accidents then train crashes. Same can be said about car crash, etc. Planes have crashed into residential buildings before and they're not protesting airliners flying over Seattle. They should just be honest and say it's an anti-oil protest, plan and simple. They don't want safer train regulations, they want us to stop using oil, so just be honest about it.
Posted by j2patter on July 31, 2014 at 5:38 PM · Report this
Has this Spear broad ever had a fucking job? What does she do to pay the bills?

or is she just another typical freeloading socialist?
Posted by marxism is a disease, and must be stamped out on July 31, 2014 at 5:50 PM · Report this
I dunno, anyone can read the safety bill the legislature is considering.

It calls for identifying the stuff in the rail cars, but only after it has gone thru...
And it specifically forbids revealing how much passes through the area..

I'm reading it now to see how they plan to wake me up in the middle of the night if there is a major oil spill... either fumes or fire, people have to get away.

Also, I am not sure how this works, but it seems like a bill of the same number has been presented for the last few years... is it really that hard to get a decent safety bill through our legislature?
Posted by rpauli on July 31, 2014 at 6:26 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 29

Shorter Fnarf:

"You like Spear because your stupid. Re-elect Chopp, stupid."

I think we've got our 2014 Chopp bumper sticker. (Paid for by citizens who are way smarter than you stupid voters, you stupid stupid fucks.)
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on July 31, 2014 at 6:50 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 30
@18, @22

The shame is that most of Chopp's contributions happened before he entered public office. People are just re-electing him because of shit he did 20, 30 years ago, ignoring his actual performance in office. Give him a plaque or something for all that awesome pre-Speaker of the House community organizing.

And maybe let him get back to doing what he does best.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on July 31, 2014 at 6:54 PM · Report this
Knat 31
Having her own face on the banner with "VOTE FOR JESS" on it really supports the "publicity stunt for her campaign" assertions found here.

However, the most encouraging detail was completely buried in the details of the story: the Stranger is keeping Ansel on the phones, and away from the blog.
Posted by Knat on July 31, 2014 at 7:24 PM · Report this
@15 - georgetown is not the city core, its the middle of the fucking rail yards! if you want to live away from trains, move away from the rail yards

spear and sawants criticism of bringing dangerous cargo close to stadiums and public space is as much a criticism of our city's current development and zoning policies as it is of the transport of said cargo... seattle is and will always be a port town. the view from the west seattle bridge reveals that seattle is a port with a city attached not the reverse.
Posted by Upchuck on July 31, 2014 at 8:42 PM · Report this
@30, the point is, Frank Chopp had a long history of accomplishments when he first ran for the Legislature. People knew him from his active civic life. He earned the opportunity to serve in the Legislature.

Jess Spear has demonstrated no such track record. She just dropped by a couple years ago, and thinks she deserves a seat in the Legislature based on…well, I don't know what.
Posted by RDPence on July 31, 2014 at 8:48 PM · Report this
@23 The Empire Builder travels on host tracks - largely BNSF's and CP's. Amtrak doesn't own or maintain the tracks it travels on, with the exception of a chunk in the Northeast US.
Posted by Vandy206 on July 31, 2014 at 8:54 PM · Report this
I've met her before during discussions about the increase in minimum wage. She seemed nice and was willing to talk. Definitely fresh to politics, but educated.

It's funny how the same people who tell the younger generation that they can't accomplish anything online get angry whenever anybody actually does go out in to the world and tries to do something.

"You're inconveniencing my daily life"
Oh really? You don't say?
Perhaps you'd prefer a few internet petitions because they don't bother you?
But wait, they don't accomplish anything.

No, sorry, if people are going to take to the streets and protest, it's going to slow things down so that people are forced to stop and take notice.

Get angry at the train that shouldn't be there, not the protesters trying to point that out.
Posted by Deadlock on July 31, 2014 at 10:34 PM · Report this
DOUG. 36
Chopp's response is saccharine boilerplate nonsense. Vote Spear in the primary so Frank knows you're paying attention.
Posted by DOUG. on July 31, 2014 at 10:43 PM · Report this
@36 - this protest is nonsense, it's not about train safety, heck it's probably not even about oil, it's about getting Jess Spear press...
Posted by j2patter on July 31, 2014 at 11:25 PM · Report this
So #33, you "don't know what" basis JESS SPEAR of Socialist Alternative and $15Now has for appealing for your vote, your donations, your solidarity?

Well, it's on the basis that you, I and the rest of the 99% currently have no one representing us in Olympia.

Heck, up until the Kshama Sawant earthquake we had no one representing us, in any public position, anywhere in the US!

Now, with just one intransigent, incorruptible, inspiring representative -- Kshama Sawant -- on Seattle city council, we managed to win the magnificent though incomplete Seattle $15 victory!

From the capitalists' perspective, what could be worse than having one socialist fighter elected?
Having two!
Because next thing they know, the capitalists will be facing a nationwide independent working-class political challenge -- like Eugene Debs a hundred years ago, only even better!

We hope to make those capitalists' nightmares come true.

Hey #27, don't you dare call anyone a "broad" or any other sexist term.

And especially not someone like Jess Spear who's in jail tonight trying to save your "ass" from becoming "ash".
The BNSF executives should be facing trial and jail for incinerating, with their bomb-oil-train, 47 of our sisters and brothers at Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
Instead they've got off scot-free to send more bomb-oil-trains through places like Seattle.
And the Democrat-Republican apparatchik Frank Chopp accepts funding from BNSF.
That's blood-money.

Ooh, so you think "marxism is a disease that must be stamped out"?
Do you mean by physical violence?
For every physical blow of yours, we will answer you with crushing physical counter-blows in self-defense.
Or do you mean by debate, argument, the battle of ideas?
That's fine -- you argue for your "ideas", we argue for our ideas, and the best ideas will win.

Dump the Elephant, Dump the Ass! Build a Party of the Working Class!
Posted by socialistworld on August 1, 2014 at 1:48 AM · Report this
It's funny to me because Jess Spear hails from coal country, Virginia. Protesting at the source would be more effective, no ?
Posted by ChefJoe on August 1, 2014 at 3:06 AM · Report this
@39 socialistworld, thanks for a good early-morning chuckle. We haven't heard such ideological rhetoric since, well, the 1970's. An earlier generation of street-corner socialists out to save the world!
Posted by RDPence on August 1, 2014 at 5:14 AM · Report this

first off, I will use any god damned term I want. And broad is a fairly good description of this socialist twit.

And please, spare the "crushing counter blows" crap. You fools couldnt fight or debate your way out of a paper bag. The fact is socialism is for losers. For people who dont contribute anything to society, but expect a bunch of handouts in return. Your type has left millions dead and starving around the world over the last century - and has left NOBODY better off.
You want socialism, then take your silly ass to cuba.

Posted by destroy marxism and socialism at all costs on August 1, 2014 at 7:02 AM · Report this
Posted by collectivism_sucks on August 1, 2014 at 12:08 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 43
A better question for Spear and even Sawant, who originally lived in North Carolina, is why did they move to Seattle to start running for office? There are even more working class masses in North Carolina and western Virginia, why not run as a socialist alternative candidate there? You don't mean to tell me that real working class people wouldn't support a socialist and that they need white, upper class liberals to vote for them. No, that can't be the case...

Posted by collectivism_sucks on August 1, 2014 at 12:13 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 44
How can anyone see Spear's stunt and then read about Chopp's actually actions and still wonder who they should vote for. I'd elect Britney Spears before I'd elect Jess Spears. After all, one is an airheaded dimwit with no talent who is just getting by on looks...and the other is that pop singer who was big in the 90s.

Jess Spear needs to go back to being a spokesperson for Wendy's.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on August 1, 2014 at 12:17 PM · Report this
The trains go through Seattle because full trains travel down the Columbia River, empty trains go over the mountain.

And, most importantly for our fellow slog readers... the state legislature and government has effectively zero power to regulate train traffic and rail cars, if Ms. Spears wanted to do something about oil trains for reasies she would be running against Jim McDermott who sits in a legislative body that can actually regulate rail traffic.
Posted by gomer on August 1, 2014 at 12:17 PM · Report this
@1, 15: But you were going for chiropracty? The bullshit placebo effect fake medicine? Your complaint is invalid...

@43: The working masses long supported socialists, and could well again.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on August 2, 2014 at 12:27 AM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 47
And dinosaurs "could" return and pigs "could" fly. And you didn't answer the question: why do socialists like Sawant and Spear come carpet bagging to Seattle to run for office? Why not run as socialists in North Carolina and Virginia, respectfully? Why do it in Seattle? Why can't socialism win outside of a few liberal, white upper class enclaves?
Why is it that socialists can NEVER win working people but only what could be called the "petite bourgeoisie"? The answer: workers never really wanted socialism and never will. Socialism will liberate workers about as much as Italian fascism liberated the Italians. Spear will only win white, upper middle class liberals and nothing else.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on August 2, 2014 at 1:37 PM · Report this
Hi #40, we'll try not to let your rich praise go to our heads!

Yes, we the 7 billion will save the world -- with your help!
We won't let the ruling capitalist enemy destroy it and us, with their global warming, their nuclear weapons, their wars without end, their massacre of one of us every 2 seconds of preventible causes.

Which brings us to the question:
Are you voting for JESS SPEAR of Socialist Alternative and $15Now this week and in November? Are you joining, funding, and advancing her campaign, making it your very own?

Because it's an important part of the struggle -- to fight to achieve an independent mass party of the working class, against the capitalist snake-oil salesmen and their Democratic-Republican two-headed snake; and in this case against their "Boeing's-and-BNSF's Blue-Eyed Boy" Frank Chopp.

Dump the Elephant, Dump the Ass! Build a Party of the Working Class!
Posted by socialistworld on August 2, 2014 at 6:04 PM · Report this

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