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Kayaktivists flock to Anacortes for 3-day protest against fossil fuel industry

Kayaktivists, who floated into Elliott bay last year to protest drilling in the arctic, plan to return to the Northwest to protest a fossil fuel refinery in Anacortes this weekend. (AP)

When kayaktivists swarmed the giant Polar Pioneer oil rig as it sailed into Seattle last year, they had the world’s attention.

This weekend, more than 2,000 climate activists hope to garner that same attention in a three-day demonstration against fossil fuels, at the foot of the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes.

Related: Kayaktivists vow to protest if Shell returns to Seattle

Although the U.S. and other nations agreed in November to do everything possible to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, Break Free Pacific Northwest organizer Emily Johnston says it’s not enough. Some estimates show temperatures have already gone up 1.3 degrees.

“Washington state jobs and lives are already at risk, with all the crazy wildfires we’ve had, with the problem with the salmon runs and the oysters,” Johnston explains. “People are definitely waking up to the fact that this is a real and local issue.”

Johnston says there needs to be immediate action to break free from fossil fuels, however, they are used — not slowly over the next decade or so, but now.

And part of that is making sure industry workers are not left behind.

“Anacortes, like other refinery towns, is a place that is economically dependent on fossil fuel jobs. You know, a lot of those are good jobs – they’re union jobs, they’re family wage jobs. So nobody wants to see that kind of work go away and not be replaced by something – also not have it be a really rational and careful transition,” Johnston says.

And those workers are all invited to participate in the weekend’s events, which will include workshops and discussions to educate anyone who wants to know more, and arm activists with information to be part of the climate fight.

A fleet of kayaks will be out on the water constantly, celebrating the earth and water, and honoring indigenous peoples of the Northwest with traditional blessing ceremonies.

And, of course, there are plans for civil disobedience.

“For obvious reasons, we’re not going to be specific about exactly what that is or exactly where or exactly when,” Johnston says.

Johnston says the group is committed to nonviolent action, and they will not be blocking refinery workers’ access to the facilities because of that. However, at least 500 attendees say they are fully prepared to be arrested.

On the other hand, the group is careful not to disturb the area’s delicate ecosystem – they brought in biologists to map out heron nesting areas and native fauna — just in case.

The weekend is just one of six events across the nation and more protests that span every continent, except Antarctica, that are pushing to wean individuals, businesses, and governments off fossil fuels.

“Whether it’s getting involved in hearings and writing letters, you know, talking to your legislators and all those kinds of things,” Johnston said. “Or occasionally just showing up en masse and putting your bodies on the line and joining together with other people who are just as concerned as you are — all of those things really can help people understand they have power in the world and they have the power to try to save this world for their kids and their grand-kids.”

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