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Megaload Protests Ramp Up Arrests

The megaload of oil extraction equipment heading through Eastern Oregon to the tar sands of Canada hit another snag when climate justice activists blockaded the road in two places east and west of John Day as part of a series of protests against the nearly one-million-pound shipment. Twelve of the 16 people arrested on Dec. 16 were members of Eugene-based Cascadia Forest Defenders. 

Jason Gonzales of CFD says the group, which is known for its use of direct action in forest protests, was working with Portland Rising Tide, 350.org and Native American tribal members to block the loads because “we actively resist resource extraction at any given opportunity.”

Extraction of oil from the sands beneath Canada’s boreal forests is water and energy intensive, opponents say, and it is not only speeding up climate change but also destroying an area the size of Florida. Representatives of the Umatilla tribe have expressed concern about the environmental impacts as well as the lack of consultation with the tribe by state agencies over transportation of the modules.

Oregon-based Omega Morgan is shipping the massive load from the Port of Umatilla. Opposition in Idaho by the Nez Perce tribe, which won an injunction against the megaloads, led the company to try the Oregon route. The current megaload, a General Electric water evaporator and the equipment to carry it, is moving along Hwy. 26 and weighs 901,000 pounds.

Gonzales says two people locked down to a car on the west side of John Day and another two people locked down to a trailer on the east side. The police used the Jaws of Life and pain compliance to remove the people from the car, according to Portland Rising Tide, and the group says that “according to bystanders, the police lifted and pulled the trailer, with the person locked to the axle being dragged on the ground.” 

Gonzales says that members of CFD and others who were nearby documenting the protest and serving as police liaisons, but not participating in the blockade, were also arrested, despite not being “anywhere near” the action. 

Last week Rising Tide protested at the Omega Morgan offices in Hillsboro as well as at General Electric subsidiary in Bellevue, Wash., where the evaporator was manufactured.

An Emmert International megaload carrying a 660,000-pound transformer tipped over on I-205 in Portland Dec. 2. It took 24 hours to get that load moving again.

CFD and Portland Rising Tide are fundraising for legal costs at http://wkly.ws/1nn.