We Bloomed! Defiance, Art and Joy at Zenith

June 4 was another chilly, rainy day in Portland’s Critical Energy Hub, but XRPDX rebels and our allies from Cedar Action, 350PDX, Jobs with Justice’s Climate Jobs, and neighborhood groups brought the spring colors and energy to Zenith! With our huge banner reading “Zenith: Cease and Desist” and our World on Fire Truck with its huge banners, approximately 100 folks marched from Highway 30 to the front entrance to the fossil-fuel-transshipment facility. While a Zenith worker on the rail platform watched, we set up with sound system, a Timeline banner of the history of Zenith, Doom or Bloom double-sided signs, and more.

A lively program kicked off from noon-ish to 1:30, with MC Victoria Wingell welcoming the crowd and introducing speakers Margaret Butler and Jan Zuckerman, both “Zenith 5” defendants and longtime opponents of Zenith’s dangerous oil-by-rail operations, and Liam Miller Castles, a recently graduated high school student.

Jan told the story of the lower Willamette River as a braided river, which was filled with soil from the west hills and silt from the river, and turned into an industrial zone. (Ninety percent of all vehicular fuels, and 100 percent of all airplane fuels for the state of Oregon are packed into this narrow strip of land between the west bank of the Willamette and Forest Park.)

Jan’s remarks acknowledged the meaning of the date chosen for this action: “the day after the anniversary of the oil train derailment and explosion in Mosier. By showing up you make it clear that our community, like their community, does not choose doom, we choose BLOOM- we choose a future that does not include Zenith Energy.”

Margaret then described the dramatic direct action at Zenith in April 2019: “On Easter morning 2019, at 6 am, we brought a dump truck of soil and a tiny house and built the garden, thanks to Mike and Harlan and Dan and others. … The rail line was shut down for two days. Seven days later, a bunch of us went back and did it a second time.  …
“With awesome legal support from the Civil Liberties Defense Center and the National Lawyers’ Guild, we were able to present a full necessity defense, including expert testimony from a climate scientist.  The courtroom was packed, and the testimony was compelling.  Despite video evidence of us trespassing on Zenith’s property, we convinced 5 out of the 6 jurors to vote to acquit us.  It was a legal milestone in terms of use of the necessity defense in climate cases and the case against us was dropped.” 

Liam read a statement by Youth vs ODOT organizer Adah Crandall, who was a no-show due to illness, adding his own urgent remarks at the end. Adah’s speech included this:
“We are running out of time, and we need urgent climate action now. And by that, I don’t just mean getting solar panels and reducing our plastic waste. Combatting the climate crisis means radically transforming every aspect of our society – how we get our energy, our food, how we get around, how we relate to one another and to the planet.  It means stopping our dependence on fossil fuels, and cutting ties with corporations like Zenith. Zenith is a disaster for our climate, and for our community.”

After the speakers, we lined up our signs, designed by artist Patti Robrahn, across the Zenith entrance, and, to the blasts of recorded “breaking news” about transforming the CEI Hub to a place of beauty, we showed first the “Doom” sides, then the “Bloom” sides. A visually powerful moment of transformation. As Patti called out details of Zenith’s ugly history of deception and expansion, we chanted our demand at each point on the timeline: “Why are they still here?!”

A dance party followed, with live music by Wendy Emerson and friends, and some remarks on Zenith’s law firm Stoel Rives by Michael Fairhurst winding up the program.
Please sign our Letter to the City Council demanding that the City of Portland take specific steps to shut down Zenith’s operations once and for all: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/shut-down-zenith-energys-fossil-fuel-operations
The struggle continues, and we continue to ask the City of Portland: Doom or Bloom?

Adah Crandall’s Speech at Zenith

Stoel Rives: Zenith Energy’s Legal Eagles