Protesters Unite in Summer of Solidarity

The above photo has been circulating around Facebook and the Energy Action Coalition’s website as part of their #ClimateSOS campaign. (Check out the hashtag on Twitter). The man behind the podium is Tim DeChristopher, who was (and is) jailed for falsely bidding on oil and gas leases in order to prevent drilling, and the quotes are from a speech he gave at Power Shift 2011, a youth environmental conference.*

All around the country, protesters are taking his message to heart. As the Summer of Solidarity tumblr explains, the actions are, “…resistance against the fossil fuel industry, and for a liveable planet, this summer.” Some have suggested that this summer full of actions is a reaction to DeChristopher’s speech, but I don’t think so. The specter of climate change is looming large for a long time, and people have long been frustrated with governmental inaction on what amounts to murder committed by fossil fuel companies. There are plenty of people who were working on these issues before DeChristopher was even born.

The photos below are from two actions that took place this past weekend, both on Saturday, July 28th. From top down they are an image of protesters shutting down a West Virginia mountaintop removal mine owned and operated by Patriot Coal, Tar Sands Blockade training, and protesters at the Stop the Frack Attack rally marching through the streets of Washington, D.C. anti-MTR and fracking protests this past weekend in West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Despite the numerous actions and the thousands of participants, there has been little mainstream media coverage of the protests. In fact, much of the media coverage out there is wrong. Though ABC news reported that no one was harmed at the West Virginia protest, the organizers say otherwise. RAMPS campaign reports that Dustin Steel, one of the arrestees, “…was taken into a room and beaten by law enforcement while in custody. Witnesses have reported that other protesters were brutalized by law enforcement while being taken into custody.” And for what? These protesters were peaceful; when people are fighting for their lives they don’t want any more violence enacted against them.

As RAMPS explains, ”Mountaintop removal is a crime against humanity that has left a legacy of poisoned air and water, high cancer rates, economic exploitation, and devastated communities and ecosystems throughout Appalachia. Corrupted legislators and regulators at the state and federal levels have failed to take action to stop these atrocities, leaving direct action as the last resort for conscientious residents aiming to save the land and people of Appalachia.”

The situation with fracking is similar. People are being poisoned; well-water is running brown. Again, corruption is a problem, and one of the rally’s purposes was to, “…demand the closure of legal loopholes that allow the oil and gas industry to ignore parts of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and other bedrock environmental laws while fracking.”

Are all of these actions leading up to something more? Will we finally see the sort of climate change legislation we were promised in 2008? If the Summer of Solidarity tumblr and the activist buzz online is anything to go by, people are getting energized. This summer might just be the first step — the turning point, the tipping point — towards real change. In the next couple of weeks, keep your eyes peeled for news stories about the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas and sit-ins against coal in Montana. Let’s see if the media starts reporting the facts on these issues: that it’s not just climate change that scares people, but the fact that they’re having trouble drinking and breathing today.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I helped organize Power Shift 2011 and am part of the Energy Action Coalition’s WeArePowerShift Leadership team of young online organizers.