Militant Journalism

12 protesters block coal train in Hooksett, New Hampshire

On December 8, on a bridge in Hooksett, New Hampshire, 10 activists with the No Coal, No Gas coalition stood on the train tracks, while two more climbed and secured themselves to the bridge’s trusses, preventing coal from reaching the Merrimack Generating Station power plant in Bow, New Hampshire for over five hours.

On a parallel pedestrian bridge, 15-20 supporters sang, cheered, chanted for and witnessed the activists throughout the day. Standing in snow and in temperatures cold enough to drain phone batteries, they sang: “We see a day beyond the horizon, and we do what must be done… Strong as a rock, rooted as a tree, we are here standing strong in our rightful place.” Members of the Southern NH PSL branch lent their support to the Hooksett Blockade, which was primarily led by 350NH and the Climate Disobedience Center.

Over the course of December 7 and 8, three train blockades in Worcester and Ayer, Massachusetts and Hooksett fulfilled the third action this year by the coalition, as they work to resist the pollution of the air and heating of the climate through energy sources known to be potentially dangerous for at least 50 years.

Adam Rice, a blockader from Portland, Maine shared,

“I learned how we are subsidizing this place each year with five times the cost of transitioning to a better energy source. More shocking though is the reason why I have pledged to do whatever it takes. Across from this plant is a park and baseball field. These children are breathing these toxins and this community is being subjected to immense health hazards…. We are going to shut this place down and give our youth the best possible shot at a livable future.”

Over $188 million are earmarked for subsidies to Atlas Holdings and Castleton Commodities International between 2018 and 2023 for keeping open the last major coal-burning plant in New England without a shutdown date. In just one hour, it emits more CO2 into the atmosphere than the average person in the U.S. does in 25 years.

Police and No Gas No Coal protesters walk down train tracks covered in snow in New Hampshire.
Photo courtesy of Anne Grossi.

Many activists for the Hooksett action were awake by 5 AM  in negative 10 degree weather preparing. Gathered in a church parking lot at 10:15, they sang. By 10:38, the blockade was in place, and the train stopped.

Soon, law enforcement arrived, and grabbed the coalition’s police liaison by the arm and took them to the back of a police car. At 12:15, a chopper circled overhead. Amidst the tension, supporters sang Christmas carols until blockaders asked them to “change the channel.”

The cops pulled away the nine remaining activists on the tracks between 12:45 and 1:00 PM, making real the protesters’ concerns over who has the power to make decisions about our environment, and why. These activists then stood by the side of the road waiting as the police booked them each for trespassing.

In the meantime, several counter protesters arrived on the pedestrian bridge to harass the climate activists. The supporters continued to sing together, raising their volume. Failing to get a reaction, the counter protesters tired and retreated.

Between 3 and 3:30 pm the climbers came down from their perches to the lyrics “Courage, my friend, you do not walk alone, we will walk with you and sing your spirit home.” Supporters were joined by the released blockaders, and they linked arms. In addition to trespassing, the police charged the two climbers with resisting arrest.

The police’s use of force made it clear who they really came to “protect and serve” — not working class people or the environment we all live in, but the private property and profit owned by the coal and gas companies.

In West Boylston, Massachusetts on December 16, No Coal, No Gas activists tried to block another coal delivery headed to Bow, New Hampshire and this time the train could not or would not stop. The activists jumped off the tracks when they realized what was happening, and while they were shaken and could have been killed, they remain determined.

The No Coal, No Gas coalition continues to resist the Merrimack Generating Station in Bow as part of the struggle to end the use of fossil fuels in New Hampshire.

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