Rev. Domyo Burk, a Soto Zen priest and teacher living in the US state of Oregon, was among the 21 protesters arrested at the office of the state governor on 21 November. The protesters were there to urge Governor Kate Brown to cancel a planned natural gas pipeline known as the Jordan Cove Project. Protests began with a rally outside the Capitol building before moving into the Capitol rotunda.
Some 75 people sat on the floor of the reception area at the governor’s office, vowing to remain until they were arrested. At about 9pm, officers were instructed to begin making arrests of those who did not leave the site. The 21 arrested were charged with second-degree criminal trespassing. Video footage from inside the rotunda showed protesters clapping and singing together, “We have got the power, we have got the power, we have got the power, it’s in the hands of us all.”
Rev. Domyo Burk described her arrest: “I spent last night in jail because of an act of civil disobedience. After 10 hours spent occupying a very hot and stuffy office, 45 minutes with my arms tied behind my back with sharp plastic zip ties, and five hours spent stripped down to one layer of clothing (not including underwear) in a grim 10-foot by 12-foot [3 x 3.7-meter] concrete jail cell with 11 other women, I’d never felt better.” (Facing Extinction)
The protesters demanded that the state governor oppose the natural gas project, which they say will encourage more fossil fuel burning and accelerate the pace of the climate crisis. Further, they worry that the pipeline could rupture, causing damage to fragile land and aquatic ecosystems. Construction spending for the project is projected to cost US$9.8 billion, according to a report by the economic consulting company ECONorthwest.
Rev. Burk noted that: “By arguing their pursuit of profits by selling gas in Asia is in the ‘public interest,’ Pembina [the company behind the project] would be granted eminent domain and allowed to clearcut a 95-foot [29-meter] -wide swathe of land and lay an explosive pipeline across private lands, traditional tribal territories, and public forests, leading to bitter opposition from private landowners and indigenous tribes. Not to mention that the project would become one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the state (yes, natural gas burns cleanly, but the process of fracking it, transporting it, and liquefying it produces more greenhouse gasses than it’s worth).” (Facing Extinction)
Before the protesters were arrested, Governor Brown spoke with them by telephone and in person, but would not commit to opposing the pipeline.
Governor Brown told the activists: “I believe that Oregonians are best served by knowing that there is a fair process and that I’m not putting my finger on the scale one way or another. Because as you know, your community is quite divided on this issue. Your community is extremely divided on this issue.” (Oregon Public Broadcasting)
“It’s just a bad idea,” said protester Bernadette Bourassa, of the pipeline project. “It’s a continuation of the extraction industry where a few corporate billionaires get another millions, or billions. There’s nothing in it for people.” (Mail Tribune)
“We are aware of yesterday’s demonstration of free speech in Salem,” Pembina spokesman Paul Vogel said on 22 November. “Our priority remains working with our neighbors and stakeholders in the communities where our project will be constructed and operate, in Coos, Douglas, Jackson, and Klamath Counties.” (Mail Tribune)
Civil Disobedience as a Cure for Cognitive Dissonance (Facing Extinction)
21 Protesters Arrested After Taking Over Oregon Governor’s Office To Oppose Jordan Cove Project (Oregon Public Broadcasting)
Gas pipeline protesters arrested at state capitol (Mail Tribune)