Crowd lights fires in street after police break up Olympia protest camp

Protesters set up a camp on Union Pacific Railroad tracks at Seventh and Jefferson on Sunday.

Olympia police said a small crowd lit fires in the street, dumped trash and tried to block traffic in the downtown area.

People took to the streets after officers and railroad police broke up an anti-fracking protest camp on Union Pacific Railroad tracks Friday morning.

At 6:30 a.m., Olympia police said others joined the group after arrests were made at the camp.

At 7 a.m., police said the group was at Jefferson and Legion. Officers said they used pepper balls and flash bangs to stop their destructive behavior.  By 7:30 a.m., the crowd had dispersed and roads were opened.

Olympia police arrested eight people on misdemeanor crimes that occurred during the event.

About 20 people from the group Olympia Stand occupied the protest camp near Seventh Avenue and Jefferson Street. They were trying to block trains that were transporting fracking sands through Olympia. The camp was set up on Saturday.

The railroad said that earlier,  it had tried to negotiate with the group that was on the tracks, but it refused to move.

Police said flyers from the group found in downtown Olympia suggested they would cause violence in the community if removed from the site, according to officers.

“We respect people’s right to protest, but when it’s on active rail lines, it becomes a safety concern to us..those are live, active tracks so we had to move them off,” said Justin Jacobs with Union Pacific Railroad.

Union Pacific Railroad police approached the camp early Friday, asking asking the group to leave. Some complied, but others refused and four were arrested.

During the arrests, masked people supporting the group arrived at the scene and confronted Olympia police officers, who were there to assist the railroad officers.

That group then began marching through downtown Olympia.

The tracks had been closed while the protesters were at the site, but a train needed to move through Friday and the camp had to be moved.

One train has since successfully departed from the Port of Olympia.

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