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Their specific target was an Exxon station, but demonstrators who turned out Saturday to protest the planned shipment of outsize oil field equipment through Montana saw plenty of evidence of what they cite as the larger issue: a dependence upon fossil fuels.

"Get out of your cars and walk!" one of the protesters - most of whom arrived by bicycle at the Exxon Town Pump - hollered at the typically heavy Saturday afternoon traffic on Reserve Street just off Mullan Road.

Nobody did. But several people honked and waved in support, although occasionally a honking driver waved a decidedly nonsupportive finger.

"It's going to take more rallies, more people and more vocal opposition ... to move us toward success," said Nick Stocks of Northern Rockies Rising Tide, the group largely responsible for Saturday's demonstration.

Rising Tide is among several organizations (see related story) seeking to halt the shipment of hundreds of pieces of equipment from the Port of Lewiston, Idaho, through Montana and into the Alberta tar sands in Canada. Each loaded rig would fill an entire two-lane road.

Most of the loads would go to ExxonMobil's oil field development; hence, the location of the hourlong demonstration by about 30 people, many of them dressed in Halloween costumes.

"I'm a post-apocalyptic road warrior figure," said Susie Rosett of her armor with its vaguely Visigoth style. "You know," she said, like from a world "after the end of gas."

She brandished a sign saying "Don't Buy Here."

People pulled into the Exxon station anyway.

But Tammy and Randy Weingart said they turned off Reserve solely out of curiosity.

"I think it's awesome what you're doing," Tammy Weingart told Rosett, who urged her to go to the Northern Rockies Rising Tide website and read up on the issue. "It's really neat how you're voicing your opinion."

Still, Weingart said, she wasn't sure how she felt about the issue. But her husband was.

"I think they should let 'em haul it through," he said of the shipments. "It will bring a lot of money into the state, and put a lot of people to work."

Saturday's protest was low-key, except for a momentary flare-up when protesters argued with Missoula police asking them to step off the gas station's property and onto the public sidewalk. Some of the protesters disagreed where the property line was.

Eventually, though, they all moved back to the sidewalk and began chanting:

"Hey, hey, ho, ho,

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these megaloads have got to go."

Clouds rolled in and a previously sunny, breezy afternoon quickly grew chilly.

Protester John Wolverton cast a cynical eye at the graying sky.

What had happened to the sun?

"It's getting blotted out," he said, "by smoke from some industrial operation in the West."

Then he went back from the sidewalk, picked up a sign, and resumed chanting.

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268 or at gwen.florio@missoulian.com.

 

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