Hundreds march for climate, jobs and justice

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Participants made connections between overlapping injustices at work in Tacoma at the liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility and the Northwest Detention Center. Photo courtesy of 350 Tacoma

As part of a worldwide mobilization in the lead-up to the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS), nearly a thousand concerned community members gathered Saturday in Tacoma to draw attention to the disconnect between GCAS (which is bringing people together from around the world to showcase regional climate action and inspire commitments in support of rapid emissions reductions) and the fact that Governor Inslee and other WA elected officials at GCAS still support expanding fossil fuel infrastructure here in the Northwest.

Particularly egregious, organizers said, is the continued work on the Puget Sound Energy Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) storage and processing facility being built on disputed Puyallup tribal land, against the wishes of the tribe and other local communities. The LNG plant has the blessing of local electeds even though fracked gas is disastrous for the climate, and the facility will add pollutants to an already toxic industrial area – leading to negative health impacts for surrounding communities, and profoundly endangering local orcas and salmon. Located in a seismically unstable area, it’s also a profound risk for explosion – and within its “blast zone” is the for-profit Northwest Detention Center, which houses 1,575 immigrants, many of whom came to the United States to flee climate impacts, poverty, and violence.

Organizers pointed out the overlapping injustices at work in the LNG facility and the detention center. “Fossil fuel projects are disproportionately located near communities of color, low-income communities, and indigenous communities, where they threaten the immediate and long-term health and safety of those most vulnerable. Tacoma’s for-profit Northwest Detention Center sits adjacent to a Superfund site, built on liquefaction-prone fill in a seismic and tsunami zone. Allowing a potentially catastrophic LNG facility to be built nearby is yet another injustice added to the human rights violations occurring inside,” said Bradley Thompson, RN, with 350 Tacoma.

“We have to use our privilege to fight for what’s right, and have the duty to fight for those who can’t. The people in the detention center need us now – and putting them at even greater risk because of the LNG plant is monstrous,” added Maru Mora-Villalpando, NWDC Resistencia organizer.

Organizers said that more than 680 actions were held across 83 countries on Saturday to demand that elected leaders commit to fighting climate change by building a world that puts people and justice before profits.

“As a Puyallup elder, I’m very grateful that the caring people are gathering here. Our Salish Sea and beautiful delta have been turned into a dirty, cruel place. PSE’s LNG and the ICE detention center are the final straw. I am here for all my relations,” said Ramona Bennet, Puyallup tribal elder.

Organizers also pointed out that the LNG facility is both unnecessary and dangerous. “While it’s true that LNG burns cleaner than diesel, the overall effect of LNG in terms of climate change, from the point of extraction to the point of burning, is now considered just as bad as, if not worse than, coal. And with the waters in the Port expected to rise up to 19 inches by 2050, we may soon lose our Port if we continue down this road,” said Tracy Wiegman, Port of Tacoma dockworker.

Host organizations for Saturday’s even include 350 Tacoma, Northwest Detention Center Resistance/Resistencia al NWDC, 350 Seattle, Redefine Tacoma, Protectors of the Salish Sea, Sierra Club Washington State, 350 Eastside, 350 Bellingham, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility.

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