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Summer of Resistance: Brayton Point Civil Disobedience in Context, From Balcombe Fracking Blockade to Idle No More!

August 16, 2013

The summer of 2013 has been an exciting and busy time for the climate justice and anti-extraction movements. Seasoned activists and frontline communities from all over the country and world have been raising the bar, escalating the resistance against extreme extraction with nonviolent civil disobedience.


A. Photo : FrackOff
Children join the blockade to stop fracking from entering Balcome. –

It’s across the map! Just to name a few:

The BALCOMBE VILLAGE in the UK began a blockade on July 25th against the fracking company Cuadrilla. Cuadrilla has permission to carry out exploratory drilling until September (photo A).


B. Photo: EcoWatch
Activist hanging from a tripod at the Momentive Facility in North Carolina

In NORTH CAROLINA activists protested at Momentive, one of the largest worldwide distributors of “resin coated proppants,” a necessary component for high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing (photo B).

Our own, nearby action with Philly Rising Tide at the TD BANK in Cherry Hill, NJ (photo C), pressed TD bank to stop funding tar sands oil extraction and to divest from the Keyston KXL Pipeline… on the same day that hundreds of protesters sat in against the KXL at the Department of Energy in Washington, DC.  On the same day, Monday August 12th, Dimock residents and Philadelphia supporters rallied against fracking.



People have been working on their own, in their own communities, as well as nationally and internationally joining together to publicly link their struggles.A prime example of this kind of collaboration is the #Fearless Summer Campaign.  This campaign created a platform for anyone who is doing their own individual action to plug into a larger campaign, with the intention of making each action more powerful.  Their mission statement is described below:

No one owns #FearlessSummer.
We encourage you to empower your community to plan your own action against the extraction industry and utilize our social media to help amplify your struggle.  Facing our fears together builds our movement and brings us one step closer to defending our planet and realizing our vision for a livable and just future…

This summer will be moving non-stop with regional convergences, training camps, and focused direct actions all over the continent targeting extreme energy.  By embracing a common message that elevates the voices of those most impacted and rejects all forms of dirty energy extraction, each of these actions can become more powerful. – #Fearless Summer

This campaign started with a kick off week of coordinated action in June. With protests across the country from Utah to Detroit, to Vermont, folks fought their local struggles at the same time.  For a more complete list and detailed description of all the fearless summer action, visit their website.

Another major campaign this summer that continues to use non-violent civil disobedience as a tool of resistance is the Sovereignty Summer, originating out of the Idle No More movement in Canada:

Officially launched on June 21 by Idle No More and Defenders of the Land, a network of Indigenous communities in land struggle, Sovereignty Summer is a campaign of coordinated non-violent direct actions to promote Indigenous rights and environmental protection in alliance with non-Indigenous supporters. – #Sovereignty Summer 

See this video of the call to a coordinated week of action across Canada for the Sovereignty Summer Campaign!

Finally, has been organizing nationally this summer and has coordinated a series of big mobilizations nationwide, under the campaign  #Summer Heat.


The #SummerHeat Close Brayton Point protest, at the Brayton Point coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Mass., on July 28, 2013. Credit: Wen Stephens

One large-scale #Summer Heat campaign action rolled out on July 28th in Somerset, Massachusetts, at the Brayton Point Power Station.  A lead organizer with Protecting Our Waters, Ann Dixon, participated in civil disobedience at this action and was arrested. Below is her account of the event and the history of the  Brayton Point facility :

Brayton Point is the largest fossil fuel burning facility in New England. For Rhode Island, downwind from Brayton Point, it’s the largest single source of carbon emissions. The plant emits  thousands of tons of mercury and millions of tons of CO2 every year. They have had numerous violations and  are currently being sued by the Conservation Law Foundation.

The plant has been a consistent target for environmentalists.

Back in May of this year, Ken Ward, along with Jay O’Hara , used a lobster boat to block delivery of coal to Brayton Point for 8 hours! Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara aboard the Henry David T. put them between the bulk carrier Energy Enterprise, a coal ship that can carry nearly 40,000 tons of coal, and the terminal. The coal ship was believed to be carrying coal from a mountain top removal operation in Appalachia to the terminal in Massachusetts. Ward is a long time  resident  of nearby Providence  and felt compelled to take action against the plant.


Common Dreams, In a David vs. Goliath scenario the Henry David T. puts itself between Energy Enterprise and New England’s largest coal plant

350MA,   A Better Future Project, and other local groups organized the Shut Down Brayton Point Coal Plant rally, march and direct action that took place in Somerset, MA on July 28. These groups want Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to use his authority to shut down Brayton Point.


Photo : jointhesummerheat. Protest at Brayton Point

The rally included speeches by mountaintop removal victims, as well as a moving talk about the reality of climate change by organizer Craig Altemose. The message of a just transition to renewable energy jobs was emphasized. Melodeego led about 350 people in song, “ Like the sea before a storm, we will rise up!…” before everyone slowly marched to the Brayton Point plant. Along with 44 other activists, I was arrested for trespassing onto Brayton Point.

Mountaintop Removal activists were a significant presence at the Brayton Point Action. See below for a video of West Virginia resident Paula Swearington speaking at the rally. – Ann Dixon, Protecting Our Waters

We all play different parts in the fight against the extractive industry and we here at Protecting Our Waters applaud and support Ann and all the other activists who put their bodies on the line to fight, as well as those who work behind the scenes to make it all happen.

GET INVOLVED! : The summer of action continues! The Brayton Point Action has an exciting next step: a march from Massachusetts to Maryland will commence on Wed. August 28th. at the Brayton Point Power Plant in Somerset, MA, and will arrive at the Cape Wind, wind farm on Cape Cod on Monday Sept 2 ( Labor Day).  See below for the full description and invitation:

 This summer, we’re having a massive people’s march for the history books to demonstrate the transition we want to see – from coal to wind. We’ll be marching from the the largest fossil fuel plant between Maryland and Maine – the Brayton Point coal plant in Somerset, MA – to the Cape to support Cape Wind, the nation’s first offshore wind farm! Sign up here to join us and receive updates on the march as we approach this historic event! – A Better Future Project

JOIN THE MARCH! For more information see A Better Future Project

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