Tar Sands Action, Portland, Maine 1/26/13

I guess it could always be both.
I guess it could always be both.
(click to enlarge)

On Saturday I joined activists from all over the country in protesting a Tar Sands pipeline in Portland, Maine. These folks were the real deal and truly committed, not least because yesterday was colder than a well digger’s ass. Even though I left the house bundled for a Siberian blizzard and was wearing two pairs of gloves, I still had to stop three times on my way to the bus to warm up my hands. In these moments, the irony of attending a climate protest on one of the coldest days of the year was not lost on me.

Despite the cold and that I’m brand new to activism, I was buoyed by the fact that I didn’t have to make the trip to Maine alone. My companion for the ride was Shayna Orent (@ShaynaOrent), who I had met and chatted with for the first time only the day before. Shayna and I connected through my mother-in-law, who knows Shayna’s parents from church and recommended we meet. Interestingly, my wife Sarah actually babysat Shayna and her brother when they were both growing up in Andover, MA. Boarding a Greyhound to protest in another city for the first time can be daunting, so Shayna and I helped alleviate some of the weirdness by buddying up.

The pre-march rally in Portland, ME
The pre-march rally


Once we arrived, things got going right away. There was a brief rally to get our blood moving, and then off we marched through downtown Portland. Attendance for the event was listed at around 1400 people, which is a lot to cram in to narrow New England streets…from where we were walking the procession seemed to have no beginning and no end. The people and the energy of the march were really great! There were a lot of creative slogans and cool signs, while singing and chanting erupted spontaneously throughout.

Pontoon ‘copter!
(click to play video)

The terminus of the march was the Portland waterfront, overlooking the enormous storage tanks intended for the tar sands oil. There several speakers addressed the crowd from a makeshift stage. Some were good, some were bad, but by far the best part of this portion was the helicopter buzzing the crowd! Whenever this quirky little thing flew overhead we would cheer wildly, and this sequence repeated itself about a dozen times. The speakers seemed annoyed whenever the chopper blades would drown out their words, but the rest of us really appreciated that our ground march also had air support.

Shayna and I didn’t quite make it to the end of the speeches…she was suffering mightily from the cold (her fingers were literally changing color) so we found a local pub and warmed ourselves by the fire. Soon afterward it was time to board the bus and head home. All around this was a great, but it seemed like topic on everybody’s mind was the February 17th action in Washington D.C. That one is going to be much larger (likely 10,000 – 20,000 people), and I’m pretty excited to be part of something that big.

More photo/video of Portland:






6 thoughts on “Tar Sands Action, Portland, Maine 1/26/13”

  1. Sounds like a really great rally. 1400 – impressive. Your mention of the helicopter overhead brought me back to my Vietnam War protesting days. Four of us (Vietnam Veterans Against the War) took over the City Hall observation deck in Kansas City. As soon as we got secured in our position and got settled we turned on our radio. Soon the regularly scheduled programing was interrupted to report about us. Almost immediately afterward a helicopter was circling our position with visible guns showing. It was tense, even for us seasoned war veterans. It all turned out well in the end. The city allowed us to vacate with no problem and even gave us a forum to speak about the war a few weeks later.

    The point is whenever you undertake protest you must be prepared for blowback from the status quo. Especially when the protests reach such a point as the status quo feels threatened.

    Welcome to civil disobedience. There’ll be much more of this stuff in the future of the climate change issue. Keep those gloves handy!

    1. Hah, thanks John. I liked your story about the helicopter over Kansas City. For a little while there we couldn’t tell if the helicopter was friendly or not, it didn’t have any markings and didn’t really look like it was signalling or anything. I admit for a minute I was like “is this just the oil company fucking with us or something?”

    1. I think it was both of them, actually. Neither one remembers you all that much, you were pretty young. They definitely remember your brother, though. 🙂

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