Activists with the Portland Climate Action Coalition are putting the finishing touches on an old school bus they purchased and renovated to serve as a shelter and medical facility for oil pipeline protesters at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
They plan to deliver the bus – newly equipped with bunk beds, a heater, insulation and medical supplies – to the protest site next week. The groups raised more than $15,000 for the project through GoFundMe. Dozens of volunteers worked long hours to remove the old bus seats and overhaul the inside, according to to Rick Rappaport, a member of the coalition.
"It was quite an involved process — and I witnessed it — to watch a bus be transformed into basically a mobile medical shelter," he said. "It's insulated. It’s craftsman-like quality. It has walls. It has a floor. It is going to have a heater. It’s actually an amazing transformation. We hope it will be on the road soon."
Artists volunteered to cover the outside of the bus with vibrant Native American murals.
Rappaport said the project has offered like-minded people a way to support the protesters trying to protect their water and cultural resources from a controversial oil pipeline. He said their protest is vital to the fight against climate change.
"You know, a bus that has a place for 10 to 12 people to lay down is certainly not going to be the 'be all end all' in whether or not that's a successful protest in North Dakota, but it's a way for small people everywhere to show support," he said. "It's all these little actions we hope will continue to build momentum."
Last month, members of the Climate Action Coalition delivered wood stoves, clothing, food and other supplies to the Standing Rock protest site and realized they needed to do more, Rappaport said.
"There was a brutal winter coming on, and there was not much there to protect the people who were out there, basically on a windswept prairie about 20 miles from any other kind of support," he said.
The group has led numerous protests against fossil fuel development projects in the Northwest, including a blockade of a Shell icebreaker vessel using kayaks under the St. Johns Bridge in Portland. Its members are advocating for the Portland City Council to pass a resolution restricting the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure within city limits. The Council is scheduled to take up that resolution on Thursday.
"Especially with what's happening right now nationally with the election, we need to make as strong a local showing as possible," Rappaport said. "Portland needs to lead the way."