The Port of Tacoma

The Port of Tacoma

WikiMedia Commons/CC

Two activists were acquitted of felony charges Thursday for protesting a liquefied natural gas plant currently under construction at the Port of Tacoma.

Marilyn Kimmerling, Cynthia Linet, and three other protesters linked themselves together last May to block construction crews from working on the future plant site.

Kimmerling says she was protesting the project because the processing and burning of liquefied natural gas would contribute to climate change, and expose nearby residents to the risk of explosions. An explosion at a similar facility in 2014 sent five people to the hospital.

All the protesters were charged with criminal trespassing and obstructing a police officer. Kimmerling and Linet chose not to pay a fine and instead went to trial.

Kimmerling says she wasn’t trespassing because the protest was on the the Tacoma Tideflats, which is part of Puyallup Tribe of Indian’s ancestral land.

“We couldn’t be found guilty of trespassing because we were there by invitation of the Puyallup people, and the land is in dispute,” Kimmerling explains.

Members of the Puyallup Tribe have also participated in protests, saying the project puts their water, salmon and treaty-protected fishing rights at risk.

The natural gas facility would belong to Puget Sound Energy. The holding tank is planned to be 140 feet in diameter and 150 feet tall, with a capacity of 8 million gallons.

Protests are ongoing. On Monday, activists — including a 72-year-old grandfather —kayaked to the port, scaled a fence, and then locked themselves to a crane at the site. On Thursday, protesters sat on 10-foot tripods in front of the construction site’s three gates to block access. Kimmerling says she hopes the verdict in her trial will help empower other protesters going forward.