By Shanti Singham, Professor of History and Africana Studies, Williams College
We had a fabulous day in Albany on May 14 at the Break Free regional environmental justice demonstration. There were over 1500 people there—and we were lucky to be part of what was a strong statement against environmental racism at a hub for crude oil transport coming from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota. We blockaded a street in Albany’s South Side to stop the constant huge truck traffic cutting through this predominantly African American neighborhood, and then went to the train tracks—literally right beside people’s houses—to stop the oil “bomb” trains from spewing their cancer-causing and asthma-causing fumes All kinds of local activists, have been organizing against these trains, which also pass through Williamstown, for over three years, including the Upstate chapter of Black Lives Matter, the Nurses National Union, pastors, local progressive councilwomen, and environmentalists of all stripes. They spoke, sang, and rallied us to continue building this powerful people’s alliance.
Some daring activists were arrested and are facing substantial charges—unlawful interference with a railroad train, fifth-degree conspiracy and third-degree criminal trespass; one of them was also charged with reckless endangerment. They will need help with funds for legal defense.
Two from our group stayed on overnight, braving arrest, thunderstorms, and the cold, as they slept on the train tracks until almost midnight. Although the police did not arrest any of the “track-sleepers”, they made their night as miserable as they could, making them take down their tents during pouring rain. But the Rude Mechanical Orchestra brass band kept up their spirits, and they held hands and waltzed the night away!
There was magic in the air. Something new and wonderful, and young, and old, and black and white and brown, is taking place.
Article in the local Albany newspaper, covering the arrests of activists at Break Free Albany!
For more, check out, BreakFree https://usa.breakfree2016.org/