***Thousands Converged in Albany to Blockade Bomb Trains***
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Aly Johnson-Kurts
Albany, NY – Over 1,500 people gathered this morning at Lincoln Park in Albany to call for an end to fossil fuel industry violations of community health and safety. From Lincoln Park, the rally-goers split into two groups, with nearly 500 people marching to the Ezra Prentice Homes affordable housing community, which sits just feet from the tracks that run the oil-by-rail “bomb trains”, and over 1,000 marching to blockade the Port of Albany rail tracks.
Another crew of activists successfully blockaded a bomb train going to the Port of Albany from North Dakota by suspending themselves such that if a train were to pass it would cut their ropes, which were crossed on the tracks, causing them to fall. Five people were arrested. All of the actions were part of the global movement against fossil fuels called “Break Free”, which includes over 20 actions on 6 continents. The Albany actions were organized by a coalition of over 100 groups.
Speakers at the Lincoln Park rally included emcee Marc Johnson, an organizer of Break Free and a third generation pastor at the Greater St. John’s Church of God In Christ in the South End of Albany, Albany Common Councilmember Vivian Kornegay, who represents the Ezra Prentice Homes and other affected communities in Ward 1, and Iris Marie Bloom, a long-time anti-fracking advocate with the Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline. The speakers highlighted the environmental racism of the siting of the trains, as the majority of those in the half-mile last zone of the tracks are Black and Brown low-income communities of color.
“We ALL deserve clean water, we ALL deserve clean air,” said Marc Johnson, speaking to the disproportionate impact on people of color. Ariela Perez-Wallach, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Upstate NY also spoke to the issue of environmental racism, saying, “Black Lives Matter stands against all forms of racism, especially environmental racism, which has stolen our health and many times our lives. We cannot afford to wait: white supremacy and climate change operate hand in hand.”
Miss Charlene Benton, President of the Ezra Prentice Homes Tenants’ Association said, “It’s really, really time that this unification to be going on. And that is the most important thing that I think we’ll get out of this. We’re not going to stop. We’re not going to back down. We’re going to stand up. And we’re going to fight together. Until we win. And we can’t lose. It’s a long struggle, but I think that we are making some progress. We’re not going to be cremated without permission.”
The organizers called for an end to to all new fossil fuel infrastructure, including pipelines, power plants, compressor stations, and storage tanks. This includes the Pilgrim Pipelines, which, if built, would increase bomb train traffic into Albany. To keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees celsius, it is necessary to keep 80-90% of the known fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
Additionally, the organizers are calling for a just transition away from fossil fuel energy, where no worker is left behind. Retraining must be provided for workers – for example, oil and gas pipeline workers could go to work repairing the nation’s crumbling water pipeline infrastructure, and oil rail workers could be employed in the growing passenger rail industry.
Break Free Albany is organized by a volunteer coalition of over 100 groups – including global groups such as 350.org, statewide organizations like Citizen Action of NY, and local community organizations like A Village, Inc. in the South End of Albany.