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Area geared up for fossil fuels protest

ANACORTES — Residents, officials and businesses in the area have geared up for a three-day fossil fuels protest event that may draw thousands to March Point, according to event organizers.

The event, called Break Free PNW, is set for Friday through Sunday and is expected to include protests, parades and information booths.

Protestors were expected to begin arriving as early as Thursday afternoon.

A mass group reservation that was made for 152 spots at Deception Pass State Park can accommodate up to 1,000 protesters, according to a newsletter from park manager Jack Hartt.

A State Parks news release this week said with protesters traveling from the park to March Point — home of the Shell Puget Sound and Tesoro Anacortes oil refineries — and Anacortes for Break Free PNW activities, traffic delays will likely occur on Highway 20.

A Skagit County Department of Emergency Management statement last week also warned protest activities may impact area transportation on roadways and the waters near March Point.

“We want Skagit County residents to be mindful of the likely increase in area traffic, both on local highways and waters near Anacortes,” department Director Mark Anderson said in the statement. “We will work with appropriate agencies and affected industry to safely accommodate this event.”

The release said the department is working with local law enforcement and state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, to ensure safety during the event.

An April 27 news release from the Anacortes Police Department said delays and road closures are expected in Anacortes and the March Point area.

While the Anacortes Police Department expects the protest to be peaceful, officers are prepared to make arrests as needed, according to the release.

Break Free PNW is part of a campaign launched by the nonprofit 350.org late last year.

The March Point protest is one of six in the U.S. this month and dozens around the world organized as part of the campaign, which calls for a transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

About 40 organizations from throughout the Pacific Northwest are involved with the March Point protest.

Break Free PNW organizers from 350 Seattle and 350 Bellingham — two area chapters of 350.org — have said March Point was selected for the protest because of the two refineries that operate there and because each has proposed construction projects. 

The two refineries and the city of Anacortes recently released statements saying they acknowledge and support the right to peaceful protests, and expect participants will respect residents, businesses and the safety of everyone in the area.

“We respect the rights of all our visitors to engage in free speech and lawful assembly, and we expect they will respect the fragile environment of Fidalgo Island, the rights of our residents and businesses, and everyone’s safety,” Mayor Laurie Gere said in a prepared statement.

Anacortes Chamber of Commerce Board President Chris Long said much the same in a May 6 statement.

“We respect the people’s rights to peacefully protest in a safe, law abiding manner and hope they avoid disruption to our businesses,” he said.

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