FAIRFIELD — Police arrested six people Thursday night after a group protesting “fracked oil” tried to block a train that was expected to pass through town by erecting a makeshift wooden scaffold on the tracks.
The scaffold, with a banner that read “Stop fracked oil. Maine earth first,” was put up to call attention to climate change and prevent about 70,000 barrels of crude oil from reaching New Brunswick, said Meaghan LaSala, one of the protest’s organizers and a member of 350 Maine, a group that’s concerned about climate change.
“We believe the moment we’re in, in terms of climate change, is a dramatic one and it calls for dramatic action,” said LaSala, 26, a Portland resident who works in Unity.
About 30 protesters gathered at the intersection of Route 201 and Route 139, many of them wearing white in an effort to look like workers at an oil spill, bearing signs that read, “Trains for people, not oil.”
Police closed both highways because the protesters refused to move. Police told the crowd by megaphone that blocking the rails and roads is illegal.
No train had arrived by 9:15 p.m.
At 9:40 p.m., the protesters who manned the scaffold had been taken into custody. The scaffold fell shortly afterward, and additional protesters, who were not blocking the tracks, cheered the arrested people.
Police were dismantling the scaffold at 9:50 p.m. Protesters were in the area but no longer blocking the tracks, and were speaking with police.
Trains carry crude oil through Maine from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, where it is “fracked” — extracted by blasting chemicals deep into the ground at high pressure to release the oil from shale rock.
LaSala said the process pollutes air and water in surrounding communities. She said the protest Thursday was part of a national movement called Fearless Summer, with a goal to expose the dangers of extreme forms of energy extraction.
The protesters’ chants called for an end to fracking in North Dakota and explained their reasons for the protest action.
Officers from the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Department, Maine State Police, the Fairfield Police Department and other law enforcement agencies responded to the protest.
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:
Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at: