The morning felt chilly and fresh as I boarded the 6:19am train for the long ride from Somerton to Paoli. I was on my way to a bold, four-pronged action planned by EQAT and our partners in the struggle to get Vanguard to steer away from fossil fuel investments. This action was a major escalation at a strategic time in our campaign, and I felt motivated to be a part of it.
Arriving in Paoli, other EQATers greeted me on the platform. We found our ride and were driven to our gathering place in a parking lot, where we were briefed and prepared ourselves for the action with inspiration and songs. Ours was one of the groups intending to stand across the four entrances to the Vanguard campus.
Promptly at 8:00am we were driven to our location, and with banners flying, six of us occupied the driveway. Our support team, including the action lead, police liaison, and other carefully chosen roles, as well as witnesses, gathered on the grass close by. Almost immediately, lines of more than 25 cars strung out in both directions on the road, and rapidly extended nearly out of sight. We broke into song and covered the area with a huge umbrella of sound.
Police were also in abundance. It wasn’t long at all before we heard the announcement ordering us to disperse. A second announcement followed, and a third. Armed with zip ties, the cops moved in and tightly bound our wrists together, then herded us onto the grass where we stood in a line as they took our information.
We were joined by the arrestees from other entrances, and now sixteen of us stood in line, singing and surrounded by supporters. The police seemed confused as to what information they needed, and we were repeatedly asked for our names, addresses, ages, social security numbers, and other details. When they asked our gender identity, it struck me as a surprising level of sensitivity.
After a while, a van arrived and the women were loaded into it. The men, fewer in number, were crammed into the back seats of several police cars. For me this was by far the most uncomfortable part of the process. There was little more than a foot of space between the seat and the security wall, and with my zip-tied hands behind my back, my creaky 6 foot frame was folded sideways.
Photo by Rachael Warriner
We were taken to the Chester County prison, and the predictable waiting, questioning, and more waiting. At one point we were asked to take off our shoes and socks so they could look at the soles of our feet. They explained that some people attempt to smuggle in contraband by taping it to their feet.
The chilly holding cell was tile and concrete, with concrete benches and a stainless steel sink and toilet. We talked and napped, while one of us rolled one of his socks into a ball and kicked it around the cell. As one might expect, at one point it landed in the toilet. Undaunted, he took off his other sock and continued his practice.
Fingerprints, mug shots, and more questioning followed. Finally, we were released at about 2:30pm. Walking through the gate, we were greeted by some of our supporters and taken to a nearby park for snacks, hugs, more singing and a friendly debrief.
Was it worth it? Absolutely! The small amount of discomfort we experienced was a unifying force that ultimately energized and encouraged us to keep on with the struggle. And we were further energized by great press coverage of the action in regional news and finance industry outlets. Vanguard must sooner or later take responsibility for its role in climate change, and we’ll be there to help it along.