The Action

At 6AM on May 15th, after a short prayer on the dock in Newport, Ken Ward and Jay O’hara embarked on their 32′ white lobster boat “Henry David T” north towards Brayton Point Power Plant. On a cloudless morning, supported by half a dozen friends and colleagues on shore, the two piloted the “Henry David T” into the ship channel at the coal pier.  At 9AM they raised a “350” banner and another reading “#coalissupid” alongside the American flag, dropped anchor, and called the Somerset police to inform them of their non-violent direct action.

Henry David T and the coal

As the anchor dropped in the harbor, they released a statement calling for the closure of Brayton Point and awaited the steam ship “Energy Enterprise”, which was making its way up Narragansett Bay with 40,000 tons of Appalachian mountain top removal coal, bound from the terminal at Norfolk, Virginia, for the enormous pile of black stuff at Brayton Point.

Waiting somewhat nervously, Ken swabbed the decks and make sure the little boat was all stowed and ship-shape. As the ship and the authorities got closer, the banners were struck and Ken and Jay positioned themselves in the most visible place on the boat: sitting in the open on the aft deck. The Somerset police arrived on the pier, and the unmistakable sound of the bolt action of a rifle was heard over their shoulders.

Around 10:50AM, Jay received a hail over the VHF radio from the “Energy Enterprise” with a formal request that they clear the channel to allow safe passage of the right-of-way vessel. After responding that they were engaged in non-violent peaceful protest, the captain of the coal ship exclaimed “But this is American coal!” to which Jay responded that it is the coal is problematic.


Just after 11:00AM the “Henry David T” was boarded by the U.S. Coast Guard while the coal ship was brought into the harbor and half-docked on the pier, unable to unload its coal. For 6 hours the “Energy Enterprise” couldn’t move to unload while the coast guard arrived, the Somerset police arrived, and eventually waiting for the State Police dive team to arrive. Through an affable determination and bureaucratic red-tape, Ken and Jay blocked the unloading of the coal for the remainder of the day.

Boarded by the Coast Guard
After blocking the Energy Enterprise for six hours, and under the threat of massive fines and Coast Guard order, Ken and Jay realized there was nothing further they could do to continue the blockade and hired a crew to lift their “persistent” anchor.  Around 6:30PM the “Henry David T”. and its crew left Brayton Point, passing in front of the Energy Enterprise with an official warning from the Coast Guard for failing to have a fog horn on board.