Welcome To The Port Of Poverty And Pollution

posted by scott parkin

The spirit of Seattle lives.

A revolt is in motion in many parts of the country. It’s crossing issues and bringing together unlikely allies to challenge corporations and politicians acting against the needs of their citizens. In November 1999, RAN joined a diverse and lively global justice movement, which included environmentalists, labor, students, people of faith and people from many walks of life, to shut down the World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings in Seattle.

via RAN Photo Credit: Marcus Donner

This week, again in Seattle, under the banner of “Welcome to the Port of Poverty and Pollution,” activists with RAN joined immigrant truck drivers, port communities impacted by economic and clean air issues, Teamsters, and faith leaders standing in solidarity in downtown Seattle at the annual Port Authorities convention.

Actions all week have been directed at the Port of Seattle and its leadership. The Port of Seattle is responsible for inadequate wages and poor working conditions. Environmentally, the port authority is responsible for air and water pollution up and down Puget Sound, impacting communities living near the Port and SeaTac Airport. The Port of Seattle consistently sides with corporations in these matters. Ironically, the tone of the convention has been portraying the Port of Seattle as an environmentally responsible engine for job creation.

Furthermore, many of the same corporations participating in the convention are actively building or promoting the construction of coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest. SSA Marine has sought permits to build one such facility in Bellingham, WA. Another convention participant is Burlington Northern, which ships coal from Montana to Washington’s ports.

RAN has formed a guerrilla projections team that has been traveling around Seattle after-hours, beaming images in solidarity with this week’s protests. Tomorrow, there will be a mass rally outside the convention.

Twelve years ago, we were part of an anti-corporate globalization movement fighting privatization and resource extraction abroad. Today we’re part of an anti-corporate movement fighting privatization, resource extraction, and climate change at home. We saw it earlier this year when thousands occupied the capitol building of Wisconsin over attacks against public sector unions. We saw it all summer as environmentalists marched, locked down, danced, scaled trees, went to prison and sat-in fighting Big Oil and Big Coal. We’re seeing it as community groups and labor are fighting against home foreclosures and tax dodging by the wealthiest companies on the planet.

A few weeks ago, labor, faith, student and many more joined with environmentalists to call on Obama to stop the Keystone XL pipeline by sitting in at the White House. Cities across the country are seeing coalitions form and fight back against local issues of “poverty and pollution” more and more. This convergence is what frightened the powers that be in 1999. Now we’re back again.