On November 11th 2016, Scouts from Port Militarization Resistance noticed a train they were watching was about to leave the Port of Olympia, WA and called for a blockade of the railroad track before the train could leave. Folx blocked the train tracks to stop the train that was carrying fracking proppants to North Dakota. Shortly after the train rolled up to the human blockade, people began to bring couches and pallets to block the train. Food Not Bombs showed up with free food. The two people who were operating the train asked the blockade to move and claimed they were only carrying organic corn, but the occupation stood firm and refused to vacate the area. Word began to spread and the location of the initial blockade made the train stand off a highly visible spectacle, which helped to galvanize support and led to the train backing off and returning to the Port. The site of the blockade eventually moved to 7th & Jefferson on public land. Nightly General Assemblies were established to create a more horizontal decision making process. Some of the backbone of this resistance was houseless folx, who helped maintain the camp as well as organize it. What started as blocking a train resulted in an encampment with places to eat, sleep, hang out, and be merry. There was a kitchen area, and people brought food and drinks. There were couches and sleeping bags, and a tent full of extra coats, blankets, gloves for campers to use. This encampment allowed for a sense of community and solidarity, even in the face of state violence and repression. The blockade started small, but ultimately resulted in a mostly enclosed space, unable to see in or out from the front side, and unable to get in easily from all other sides as well.
A week later on November 18 the Oly Stand camp was raided by riot police with pepper balls, batons and concussion grenades.
There is no way to write about the camp without acknowledging the power of capitalism over all experiences in our society. Any dissent against capitalist exploitation, extraction, or production is faced with state repression on differing scales. Here we saw riot police. In other areas of North America and parts of the world, people are going up against automatic weapons. In the streets of the United States the police terrorize people of color with profiling, arrests and gunshots.
As we learn new ways to hit pressure points on the expansionist force of capital power, we can recognize the pressure points we push on ourselves, and our own communities. For the latter it might not be so much of a point as a flavor, a taste beyond blind constructs of control mechanisms and so called realism. There was an autonomous zone formed in a downtown nook on a layer of tracks. It was on stolen land that has not been reclaimed; and the dynamics between groups holding far swaying political ideologies and cultural normalities was far from utopia; but the action and the place it was held in further catalyzed public opposition, forged bonds and comradeship, and gave many who were involved a taste of what is worth dying for.
I witnessed how a primal and radical impulse awakened or strengthened in many as they poured themselves into building a statement and sustaining their companions. Many just needed the right time and platform for an opportunity. So maybe all along the tracks, the tracks built in the name of manifest destiny, the tracks ever growing old and brittle already being a choke point, a weak spot in the robber baron enterprise, its Achilles heel; maybe these tracks are our bow and arrow. Pressure points work both ways, when one side is compressed the other expands. When communities have room to expand they organize. To all those involved in the struggle, may you keep finding those pressure points. Fight on!