Two weeks ago, I loaded up a car with four other people to embark on a 1,000-mile journey to stop a massive expansion of coal infastructure in the Pacific Northwest. We traveled by caravan from the Pacific coast to the Coal Export Action in Helena, Montana where for a solid week our community put their freedom on the line to stop a city-sized coal mine.

The journey began in Bellingham, WA, where community organizers are actively campaigning against the proposed Cherry Point Gateway Pacific coal export terminal. If approved, Cherry Point will be a transfer station for up to 48 million tons of coal per year- dumped onto the coast and shipped across the Pacific Ocean to provide power in China. The Power Past Coal coalition is hubbed in Bellingham, home to a lot of the no coal export organizing in the Pacific Northwest, and has been working closely with No Coal Whatcom, Re-Sources, Western Action Coalition and many other community members to stop the proposed export terminal from taking over northern Washington.

From there, we traveled all along the rail line that is burdened with increasing coal trains every day. We met amazing people who are fighting coal from the ports to the plains and all along the rail line. In Spokane, WA, we met  with another car full of organizers coming in from Portland. Spokane could soon become the country’s dirtiest coal conveyor belt, shipping 100 tons of dirty coal on rail lines every day. In Sandpoint, ID, the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper was able to host a community forum on the waterfront where community members came together and not only learned about the effects the coal trains would have on the natural ecology, but make plans to take action together to stop them.

Every day we met more people, joined more cars, building our caravan and our movement. We arrived in Helena Montana together prepared to take action together step up resistance to coal.

From August 12th to 20th, we transformed the Montana Capitol into a forum for direct action via direct democracy. The Statehouse rotunda has been buzzing with trainings, skill shares, conversations, art and more. The action was designed to both target the Montana Land Board with the responsibility of rejecting the proposal to mine Otter Creek, a critical piece of a much larger industry plan to transform the Northwest into a coal export zone, as well as build a much broader movement against coal.

Hundreds of people participated thoughout the week, and 23 were arrested sitting in and refusing to leave the Statehouse until the Statehouse stands up against King Coal.

This action has been a crucial part of the Summer of Solidarity, standing with Frontline communities all across the United States who are joining together to put an end to fossil fuels for the good of our environment, health, and climate. Together, we are raising our voices, showing the courage and creativity that it will take to upend an industry as powerful as king coal, or any other part of the fossil fuel industry. We showed that Montanans, and communities across the Northwest won’t stand for destructive new coal infrastructure – in fact, they’re ready to sit in to see it stopped.