On March 21st, with high energy, dozens of handmade signs, and drums, 200-300 people rallied at Westlake in downtown Seattle and marched 3.8 miles to the port of Seattle and SSA Marine’s office in protest against the proposed coal terminals to be built at Cherry Point, on sacred Lummi land. On the way to the ports, the march passed the BNSF Railway which would be responsible for moving the coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming, through Washington and up to Cherry Point, and an International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) hall who would be loading the coal onto ships.
A couple members of BOC prepared speeches to be given during the march. The first was outside the ILWU Local 19 Union Hall. A flyer calling for solidarity from port workers with indigenous liberation and anti-coal movements was passed out to the ILWU workers who would take it. Several hundred were distributed to Seattle port truckers earlier in the week to give them a heads up about the march and to draw connections to their recent grievances against SSA Marine.
To see a video of this speech given to ILWU Local 19 members (mostly B-Men and Casuals), skip to minute 6:30.
See below for the text of the speech:
* We are marching on our way to protest SSA Marine who stands to make millions in profits off of proposed coal terminals. Including a coal terminal on sacred Lummi nation land. We know there is another way than coal.
* We also know you are being locked out in Vancouver, WA by the United Grain corporation, and that other corporations are trying to bust your union. We support your struggles against them!
* Some of you support coal because of the jobs the corporations have promised you. We understand the economy is rough right now and jobs are hard to find.
* But corporate profits certainly aren’t hard to find. SSA Marine, United Grain Corp, and Goldman Sachs, are raking in millions of dollars in profits annually. Simply put, you are being replaced by machines through automation so they, the corporations, can get paid. The several dozen new port jobs created through the coal terminals will be eliminated elsewhere in the ports over the next years via automation.
* They don’t want you to fight back against them, the corporations – instead, they want you to fight with us over crumbs.
* It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of demanding new coal terminals for more jobs, why not unite to force the shipping companies to hire more longshore workers for non-coal related shipping. Why not force them to pay more people the same overall pay you make now, but for working fewer hours, so that more people can get in. 20 hours work for 40 hours pay. The only loser in this situation would be the 1%-ers.
* If we all worked together, we could force them to hire unemployed folks in our communities, especially people of color, womyn, and gender non-conforming folks, without taking your current jobs and without opening up coal terminals.
* All of this makes more sense than siding with ecological destruction and colonialism.
The second speech was prepared for the rally outside of the SSA Marine office. Although there was a large presence of native folks at the march, during the open mic period, nearly all the people who came forward to speak were settlers / non-native, most of whom were white. The writer of this speech decided not to give it because as a non-native person they wanted to give more space for native folks to speak on the mic. We still want to share the speech as it speaks to the urgent importance of building solidarity with Chinese workers who are struggling against coal imports and other capitalist attacks.
Please see the text of the speech below:
Thank you everyone for this action. I am thankful to be allowed to share a few words here.
As a guest to these lands, I have been humbled and inspired by what I have learned from the Idle No More movement. I have been inspired by the ways that decolonization, indigenous struggles, resistance to colonialism and capitalism, health and well being, are not seen as separate struggles, but unified ones.
The coal belongs to the earth and it should stay there, rather than be used for the destruction of humanity. It is this simple, but the corporations and the governments want to complicate it. We are in front of the SSA Marines office. This is the SSA that will be financing and building the coal terminals. This is the same SSA of Goldman Sachs, the SSA of the “too big to fail” banks who got a 700 trillion bailout from the government while the rest of us had to hustle to through their destruction; and this is the SSA that practices de facto segregation where the predominantly East African port truckers do not have equal access to bathrooms or compensation for equipment broken at the ports. They will be rolling in cash while indigenous lands continue to be desecrated, while the rest of us suffer the costs of environmental destruction.
And this is capitalist America that colonizes globally and locally. Their vision does not include decolonization. In fact, they are threatened by it and will seek to squash it every way they can. If need be, they will also distort our struggles so their visions remain intact.
In some environmental rights groups that have no concept of decolonization, they say, that the coal “belongs to the US” and that it should be kept here, for this economy, rather than be sent over to boost the Chinese economy. Clearly, in many such narratives, people who identify as Americans should react strongly against THEIR natural resources going to a foreign country. This has always been the oppressor’s way, to mobilize and rile up people to fight against a foreign and unknown other. In the 10th year anniversary of the Iraq War, with an Iraqi death toll of 100,000 and more, and Iraqi babies born with genetic deformities from use of depleted uranium, and the many lies of the Pentagon exposed, we are only reminded again of how vicious this tactic is. Now, in light of a weak economy, the other is beginning to be China, the evil Asian enemy that wants to rob the white man of his coal and his wealth.
In our resistance to coal, we need to start off on a different road, a different way of thinking. The Master’s tools of American nationalism will not work. To begin with, this land does not belong to the US. This is stolen Native land.
The US media also does not report that in recent years in China, there have been huge protests in the industrial heartlands against the building of coal powerplants. In 2011, in the Factory Floor of the world, in the Guangzhou province of China, 30,000 people occupied a highway to protest against the building of a coal powerplant. This mass action took place around the same time as mass protests against land theft and forced displacements in the neighboring village of Wukan. More recently, in October of last year, villagers in another part of Southern China also came out against state repression to protest yet another coal power plant. The residents of Hainan Island had resisted the building of a new plant in April and forced the construction of the new plant to stop. The authorities tried to build the new plant elsewhere in the surrounding areas but everywhere they went, they were rejected. So they came back and thought things had died down. But they were wrong. There were mass protests with thousands of villagers on the streets. They were holding banners saying “Resist the Coal to Save the Environment” and “Resist the Coal to Save our Health”. They faced riot cops and the police. As of now, the plant has not been restarted.
These rebellions were happening not too far from the factories that make Apple products, where for years young workers committed suicide to protest the life sucking, mind numbing working conditions. These factories have also begun to riot, and protest these awful working conditions. These people-driven, grassroots resistance against coal companies, and the rebellion against the awful working conditions is a very different picture of China from the one we hear of here. In fact, these Chinese workers and villagers resisting against the same power structures we are. Theirs is not the same China that signs agreements with the Canadian government to further exploit indigenous lands; Neither is it the same China that builds mines on the African continent, in Zambia, in South Africa, to exploit natural resources and start another round of capitalist colonization. These different layers of China exist, like the different layers of North American exist.
The Chinese corporations are part of the global ruling class, along with the Canadian and Americans. These corporations and governments are arrogant enough to think that their borders are real, and that the lands their police reign terror on, actually belong to them. They open up their lands and people to one another to exploit when it suits them.
Our resistance against coal, against colonization, against capitalism, has the potential to reach across borders. We need to work together with the Chinese people resisting the construction of coal refineries in their communities, who oppose coal, like us. We must not buy into the arrogance of US nationalism that want us to see others only as foreign others rather than allies in similar struggles.
For previous news coverage on Lummi resistance to terminal:
Seattle Weekly – “Lummi Indians to NW Coal Producers: ‘Don’t Tread on Us’“
Bellingham Herald – “Lummi Coal Protest” (photos)
More footage from the rally and march (thank you to folks on Facebook for sharing their videos!):
The following Saturday, March 23rd was a Water Blessing Ceremony to respond to Idle No More’s call for action on World-Wide Water Day.
More photos can be found HERE. For videos shared on Facebook, please check out the links below:
Idle No More ~ Protect the Sacred Water Blessing Ceremony part 1
Idle No More ~ Protect the Sacred Water Blessing Ceremony part
Idle No More ~ Protect the Sacred Water Blessing speakers part 1
Idle No More ~ Protect the Sacred Water Blessing speakers part 2
Idle No More ~ Protect the Sacred Water Blessing speakers part 3
* This Saturday, April 6th in Bellingham there will be a protest of the anti-Indian CERA Conference
* Saturday, April 20th in Seattle – Duwamish Estuary Cleanup
* Saturday, May 11th in Everett – 21st AnnualHilbulb Everett Community College Powwow
* Sunday, May 12th in Seattle – “We are not machines!” The Situation & Struggles of the iSlaves in China
* Saturday, May 18th in Tacoma – Northwest Regional Leonard Peltier and Mother Earth March and Rally