More than 1,000 people marched through downtown Tacoma on Saturday to protest fossil fuel expansions from the Dakota Access Pipeline to a proposed Port of Tacoma liquefied natural gas plant.
They chanted “Water is life” and followed drummers from the Puyallup, Nisqually and other area tribes up Pacific Avenue and onto the campus of the University of Washington Tacoma, where tribal leaders gave a series of speeches against what they viewed as abuses of the Earth’s resources.
“It just so happens a battle line has been set up with the Standing Rock people,” said Puyallup chairman Bill Sterud. “They’re not alone.”
Unlike post-presidential election protest marches in other cities, the Tacoma march passed without incident. Tacoma police watched from cars parked off the designated route, and the protest began with repeated exhortations to march peacefully.
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Rachel Heaton of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe said she had helped organize the march in Tacoma to draw attention to fossil-fuels projects happening throughout the Northwest, including Puget Sound Energy’s proposed $310 million Tideflats LNG plant.
“Standing Rock issues are happening right here,” Heaton told the crowd, “right here where we live.”
John Carlton, with the anti-fossil fuels group RedLine Tacoma, was one of several volunteers from his organization passing out informational fliers and reflective red vests that read “No LNG.” He said the rally was an opportunity to raise awareness of the LNG plant that had caught many Tacoma residents by surprise.
“With the unleashing of the fossil fuel goals of the next administration on this planet, it does not bode well for the health of anybody on the planet,” Carlton said.
Sterud brought up President-elect Donald Trump’s investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline project to a cacophony of boos, but Trump’s name was absent from the assortment of signs and posters the marchers carried through the streets. Sterud called the LNG plant “another danger” to be resisted.
Hermine Soler, 74, of Midland, carried a poster that read “Respect Treaty Rights” and said she had marched against nuclear-weapons proliferation in the 1980s. The Saturday protest, she said, was of a piece with those efforts.
“Now that Trump has been elected, I am concerned that all the environmental things we have going now will be decimated,” Soler said.