Counter-protesters gather in Bonners Ferry

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  • A group of local people, referring to themselves as the anti protesters, gathered in response to a proposed rally that was canceled due to weather last Saturday. Photo by MANDI BATEMAN

  • 1

    Photo by MANDI BATEMAN The BNSF Police patrolled the area where the Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest was scheduled to take place.

  • A group of local people, referring to themselves as the anti protesters, gathered in response to a proposed rally that was canceled due to weather last Saturday. Photo by MANDI BATEMAN

  • 1

    Photo by MANDI BATEMAN The BNSF Police patrolled the area where the Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest was scheduled to take place.

BONNERS FERRY — “We are here … where are they?”

That is what a group of people said as they gathered in a parking lot near the Bonners Ferry Gateway Visitor Center last Saturday.

The group, referring to themselves as anti-protesters, came in response to a planned Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest organized by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT). The anti-protesters were unaware that the protest in Bonners Ferry was canceled due to weather conditions.

High winds and rain may have deterred the activists, but it did not stop the group of local Boundary County residents who waited for close to an hour for the protest to begin.

According to a press release from WIRT, the activists planned to host the Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest in Bonner and Boundary counties on Saturday, Feb. 1, in conjunction with #No2ndBridge and regional climate activists. Participants were expected to meet at 10 a.m. around the City Beach Park pavilion in Sandpoint, then carpool to Bonners Ferry to march at 11 a.m. The event was to commemorate the one month anniversary of the BNSF train derailment.

The weather changed the plans of the activists, forcing the participants to gather inside the City Beach Park picnic pavilion, instead of outside where they had planned.

“Under such conditions, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists could not display the unwieldy signs and larger banners that we brought for the event,” said Helen Yost of WRIT. “So potential participants either chose not to attend, due to the wind advisory, or may have driven nearby, without noticing the rally.”

Carpools had been arranged days before the event, to take the activists from Sandpoint to Bonners Ferry.

“But only bicyclists and pedestrians without vehicles braved the weather and waited an hour for others to arrive at the park,” said Yost. “Without appropriate transportation, we communicated via text and phone with Bonners Ferry residents who had contacted WIRT with their concerns soon after the BNSF locomotive derailment and diesel spill into the Kootenai River, and alerted them of our absence at the Saturday march.”

The news did not reach the anti-protesters or law enforcement in Bonners Ferry. The Boundary County Police Department and the BNSF Police, patrolled downtown Bonners Ferry to make sure that nothing got out of control.

The anti-protesters waiting had come for different reasons, most in support of the railroad, while some came with questions, wanting to know where the activists obtained their information, believing it to be inaccurate. As time passed, the anti-protesters slowly dispersed, questions unanswered.

BNSF Railway was aware of the planned event.

“BNSF respects everyone’s right to safely exercise their constitutional rights,” said Courtney Wallace, spokeswoman for BNSF Railway.

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