Protests against the oil, gas and coal industries erupted across multiple continents over the weekend as part of the global campaign to “break free from fossil fuels.” In Washington state, 52 people were arrested after blockading railroad tracks leading to two oil refineries. Protesters pitched their tents on the tracks and occupied the BNSF Railway tracks from Friday afternoon until police broke up the encampment early Sunday. Ahmed Gaya spoke out on Saturday.
Ahmed Gaya: “This has been one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever been a part of in my life, I have to say. We need to break the grip of fossil fuels on our economy. World leaders agree that to have a stable climate we need to limit temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius. There is no current plan anywhere in the world to do that. The only thing that has been proven time and time again to bring about rapid and massive social change are mass disobedient movements.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of “kayaktivists” took to the waters around the Shell and Tesoro refineries. They displayed a banner in front of the refineries that read “Transition Together.” Liz Lafferty spoke out about why she decided to take to the waters.
Liz Lafferty: “I’m here today because for the last hundred years we’ve been spending our children’s children’s resources. And it’s been an insane act on our part to take resources that really belong to future generations, and spend them as if we can replace them, because they’re irreplaceable resources. So I’m out here. And the other reason I’m out here is because for democracy to work, you have to have an informed populace. And we’ve been asleep, I’ve been asleep, for too long.”
Meanwhile, across the country from Washington state, in upstate New York, thousands of people converged on the Port of Albany to protest shipments of explosive crude oil by rail in so-called bomb trains. The trains pass just yards behind the Ezra Prentice public housing complex in the New York state capital. Albany Councilmember Vivian Kornegay spoke about the action.
Vivian Kornegay: “People have come to us from Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, even Maryland, to be one unified voice with this small community. And small communities across the country are getting together to make one unified voice and have that one unified voice heard from where we are today, here in Albany, or wherever else these protests are happening, to the White House, to let them know that small communities are impacted and affected, and we are not going to go away until you hear from us and hear that we want and deserve to have safe communities. We deserve to be able to breathe clean air, drink clean water and have our children be safe and free from the backdrop of an oil train when they play in the playground.”
As part of the actions in Albany Saturday, many protesters sat down on the train tracks and occupied them for hours. In the early afternoon, two climbers suspended themselves from a railroad bridge, blockading a train from North Dakota carrying crude oil. At least five people were arrested, including the two climbers—Marisa Shea and Maeve McBride. McBride described their action.
Maeve McBride: “Marisa and I and another team of folks were able to drop a line over a railroad bridge this afternoon and stop mainline traffic and an oil train that was heading from essentially western New York down. We just got our arraignment, and the last thing the judge said to us when we left was 'Thanks for coming out.'”
Protests against fossil fuels and the impacts of climate change were also held over the weekend from New Zealand to South Africa; from Nigeria, where residents demanded a cleanup of the Niger Delta, to Brazil; from Turkey to Denver, Colorado, to Ecuador, where participants planted trees on a future oil refinery site to protest drilling in Yasuní National Park. Demonstrators converged in Los Angeles; Vancouver, Canada; West Java, Indonesia, where they dropped banners from machinery used to unload coal; Chicago; and Washington, D.C. In Germany, more than 100 people were arrested after thousands gathered to shut down one of Europe’s largest lignite coal mines for two days. The protesters blocked rail access and made their way onto the grounds of a coal-fired power station.
In another reminder of the fossil fuel industry’s impact, a Shell oil facility spilled about 90,000 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. Authorities say the spill has been contained and cleanup is underway.
And in the latest sign of human-induced climate change driven by the fossil fuel industry, last month marked the hottest April on record worldwide, crushing the previous high by the widest margin to date. It was the seventh month in a row to break global temperature records.
In Iraq, ISIS militants attacked a natural gas plant north of Baghdad, killing at least a dozen people. More than 120 people have been killed in ISIS attacks over less than a week. The attack began with a car bomb explosion, then suicide bombers entered the plant and fought with security guards before blowing themselves up.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has continued to offer guarded praise for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Ryan praised a meeting on Thursday between Trump and Republican leaders, but said more work remains to unify the Republican Party.
House Speaker Paul Ryan: “It is no secret that Donald Trump and I have had some disagreements. It’s no secret that we’ve, from time to time, clashed on an issue or two. That happens with people. That happens with Republicans. The question is: Can we put together a process that really actually helps get our party unified, so that we’re at full strength in the fall? And based upon the meetings that we had on Thursday, I’m encouraged with the beginning of this process.”
Trump is facing renewed scrutiny over his treatment of women, including reports he raped his ex-wife Ivana in a fit of rage. Ivana Trump made the accusation in a deposition. However, in the book, “Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump,” Trump’s lawyers insisted a statement by Ivana Trump be placed in front of the book which read, “I referred to this as a 'rape,' but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.” The New York Times has interviewed dozens of women who interacted with Trump, from a beauty pageant contestant who said Trump kissed her on the lips, to a woman executive who said Trump commented on her weight, telling her, “You like your candy.” Rowanne Brewer Lane, a model who dated Trump, said he asked her to change into a swimsuit almost immediately after meeting her at a pool party at his Florida mansion. Trump is known for his disparaging language against women, calling comedian Rosie O’Donnell’s face “fat” and “ugly,” and saying of Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s tough questioning of him, “There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her—wherever.”
Asked about Trump’s reported history of disrespecting women during a “Fox News Sunday” interview with Chris Wallace, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus initially said no one cares.
Reince Priebus: “Well, you know, a lot of things bother me, Chris, and obviously I’m the wrong person to be asking that particular question. But, look we’ve been—we’ve been working on this primary for a year. And—”
Chris Wallace: “Wait a minute, why are you the wrong person? I mean, you’re the chairman of the party, this is your nominee, and they’re saying that he has mistreated women over the years.”
Reince Priebus: “I’m going to answer. What I would say is, you know, we’ve been—we’ve been working on this primary for over a year, Chris, and I’ve got to tell you, I think that all these stories that come out, and they come out every couple weeks, people just don’t care. I think people look at Donald Trump and say—and Hillary Clinton and say, ’Who’s going to bring an earthquake to Washington, D.C.?’”
In a major boost to Trump, billionaire casino magnate and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson has told Trump in a private meeting he could donate upwards of $100 million in order to help get Trump elected. Adelson reportedly said he was willing to contribute more to help Trump than he has to any previous campaign.
President Obama took aim at Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric as he delivered the commencement address at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Obama criticized Trump’s call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.
President Barack Obama: “Isolating or disparaging Muslims, suggesting that they should be treated differently when it comes to entering this country, that is not just a betrayal of our values, that’s not just a betrayal of who we are, it would alienate the very communities at home and abroad who are our most important partners in the fight against violent extremism.”
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders face off in primaries in Kentucky and Oregon Tuesday. Republicans also hold their primary in Oregon.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has extended a state of emergency for 60 days and accused the United States of working to oust him from power. Maduro said his right-wing opponents in Venezuela have been emboldened by the ouster of President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil. Like Brazil, Venezuela has been embroiled in an economic crisis. Triggered by low oil prices, the crisis has seen water shortages, blackouts and the instatement of a two-day work week for government employees. Maduro issued his decree on Friday.
President Nicolás Maduro: “I decree today, Friday, the 13th of May, a state of economic emergency in order to defend the country. Here is the decree, signed and approved for the protection of our country. Once this is published in the next few minutes, this new decree will go into effect, and I maintain the constitutional power to defend the country against the threats of an economic war.”
Meanwhile, protests in Brazil continue over the Legislature’s vote to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and put her on trial. Rousseff is accused of tampering with government accounts to hide a budget deficit. But she has accused her right-wing opponents of fomenting a coup. Her replacement has instated an all-white male Cabinet charged with implementing corporate-friendly policies. Rousseff said the new government is illegitimate.
President Dilma Rousseff: “I believe we are seeing a new concept with regard to the presidential system in Latin America. I think it is a mixture, as military coups are out of fashion. There is a problem for all regimes, like under the presidential system, in which there is a fixed date for it to begin and for it to end.”
In Spain, thousands took to the streets to mark the fifth anniversary of the Indignados movement. On May 15, 2011, the mass movement erupted against unemployment, austerity, the big banks and the political system. The Indignados helped inspire the Occupy movement and the emergence of the political party Podemos. The protest comes as Spain heads for new elections next month, following a political deadlock after December elections resulted in a Parliament divided between Podemos, the Socialists and the ruling People’s Party.
The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has taken steps to bar the use of its drugs in executions. In a statement, Pfizer said the company “strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment.” About two dozen other U.S. and European drugs firms have adopted similar restrictions. The human rights group Reprieve says all FDA-approved manufacturers of execution drugs have now blocked their sale for use in executions, potentially forcing states to go underground if they want to buy the drugs.
And Palestinians marked the 68th anniversary of the Nakba, or “Catastrophe,” when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced during the period around Israel’s declaration of statehood. In the West Bank city of Ramallah, residents re-enacted the movement of refugees, carrying suitcases and baskets. In Bethlehem, demonstrators created a mock train bearing the names of cities where Palestinians lost their homes. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades at the train and its accompanying marchers.