Early on Friday morning, August 26, over one hundred and fifty people blocked a 414,000-pound, 208-foot long tar sands processing plant module at a major Moscow, Idaho, intersection for up to 45 minutes. While a half dozen protesters sat in the Third and Washington street crosswalk in front of the massive ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil shipment, scores of community members and newly returned college students stood in the streets, angrily chanting and waving signs. Police dragged several demonstrators to the curb, but six reseated themselves ahead of the transport and were arrested. Held and cited for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse, they waited hours for arraignment by Idaho State Police, who are paid by the oil company to escort the load (a conflict of interest?) from the Port of Lewiston, up Highway 95 through Moscow, and along Interstate 90 to Montana.
Moscow area citizens and activists associated with the climate change direct action group Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) stood and sat in solidarity with First Nations residents of northern Alberta sickened by upstream and upwind tar sands mining and processing. These operations spew toxic air pollution, hasten global warming, and poison the waters, lands, and wildlife of the boreal forests and wetlands crucial to this subsistence culture. Protesters who stopped the shipment also expressed solidarity with Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipeline permitting opponents in the Plains states, British Columbia, and at daily, ongoing sit-ins at the White House gates in Washington DC. Highway 95 corridor residents have also voiced concerns at two public hearings and in numerous newspaper opinion pieces about industry exploitation of their narrow rural roads, fragile bridges, and public access, safety, and convenience on federal highways in Idaho.
Although this was the eighth demonstration against Imperial Oil transports moving through Moscow, within what could become a permanent industrial corridor over the next decade for hundreds of two-lane-wide shipments, this protest confronted the first full-size load split in height to travel under interstate overpasses. Last October, thirty-four modules up to thirty feet high had been shipped and barged to the Port of Lewiston, where they were stranded and reduced in size after a series of four lawsuits diverted movement of the locally-termed "megaloads" away from ExxonMobil's nominally preferred route, the Highway 12 wild and scenic river corridor.
WIRT activists have pledged to continue monitoring the oil company shipments, taking notes, photos, and videos of their missteps on their way to the largest industrial project on the planet, which fuels Americans' addiction to a quarter of the world's oil. In the true spirit of corporate resistance, regional residents plan to keep the pressure on ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil, both in the streets and in the courts, as they stall this tar sands supply route invasion and dangerous and destructive uses of their public resources. Last night proved one more instance of ever more meaningful and effective rallies in the Northwest that work to divest our dependence on the dirty oil derived from tar sands development.
Other news about the protest:
(From activists:) Idaho Residents Arrested Blocking Tar Sands Megaloads Bound for Alberta
link to itsgettinghotinhere.org
(From local media:) Four arrested at megaload protest in Moscow
Moscow Pullman Daily News, August 26, 2011