A group of ordinary people in Helena, Montana (US) joined together and shut down the main rail line used to transport coal through Montana to the West Coast. Amongst the 14 everyday citizens were college students, retirees and working people. Their purpose was to capture the attention of the general public and let them know how private companies are profiting off of polluting rail line communities.
This action of peaceful resistance followed a sit-in at Montana’s State Capitol last year to prevent the construction of the Otter Creek Mine that would supply coal for export to international markets and be one of the biggest coal mines in North America. It would transform rural Southeast Montana into an industrial coal extraction zone and seriously add to local pollution.
Knowing a rail blockade could lead to severe legal repercussions, the peaceful protestors decided to play it safe and only occupy the railroad property. Nonetheless, this action of civil disobedience had an even larger impact than they anticipated and resulted in a 1-hour shutdown of the rail line. This group of 14 unexperienced activists not only achieved far more than any environmental organization in Montana did, but also set an important mile stone in future actions against rural pollution.