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.
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.
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: