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Fracking protest message at Denver 350 rally cuts through nebulous “Forward on Climate” theme


DENVER, COLORADO- Score another success for Colorado Fractivists who crashed this weekend’s climate rally with their unequivocal anti-fracking message. The February 17 event was intended to urge President Obama “Forward on Climate”, to borrow his most recent campaign vagarity, but when official speeches began, and the prefab signs were distributed, it became unclear who might be trying to co-opt whom.

Gas
The 350.ORG sponsored march, coinciding with a rally and civil disobedience in DC, called specifically for a halt to the Keystone XL Pipeline and Tar Sands extraction which climate scientists have dubbed “game over” for hopes of averting climate disaster, but the dominant signage spoke vaguely of “Climate Action” and “It’s Time to Cut Carbon” and “Big Coal Makes Us Sick”, all of which are slogans used by proponents of natural gas. 350-ORG has been raising awareness of the imperative to reduce carbon emissions, while recognizing that the groundswell driving environmentalists across the country is opposition to oil & gas hydraulic fracturing.

It’s all the same fight to reduce burning of fossil fuels, but moderate allies like the Sierra Club haven’t been prepared to denounce their new-found bed partners urging consumers to get “Beyond Coal.” To her credit, local 350-ORG coordinator Micah Parkin incorporated fractivist groups into the Feb 17 rally, but Democratic Party panderers didn’t get the memo. A representative read a letter of support from Senator Michael Bennet and was able to sneak past: “I stand with Obama” and even “in favor of US energy independence” although that’s code for oil & gas exports, dependent on construction of the XL pipeline. But when Mark Udall’s representative referred to “clean burning natural gas” the crowd booed. Even as he pleaded “we’re on your side,” the crowd wouldn’t relent, making sure his takeaway would be that fracking compounded global warming, among its other horrors.

The highlight of the rally occurred immediately afterward when the master of ceremonies, a twelve-year-old rapper and member of the Boulder based Earth Guardians, thanked Udall’s rep affably but then assured the audience that “of course there’s no such thing as clean natural gas!”


Occupy
A word about Occupy Denver’s part in Sunday’s march. Occupiers took the black-tie invitation to heart and turned up in black bloc attire with bandanas and balaclavas. OD then pushed the envelope to the consternation of parade marshals, stepping into the street at one point, blocking cars at another, in the spirit of their banner which read “ONLY DIRECT ACTION WILL STOP THE PIPELINE.”

To what end, creating friction during an event otherwise running smoothly? Who knows. The demonstration was uneventful and garnered scant media attention. Mixing it up might have helped, or not. The turnout was large but not up for a confrontation. Occupy didn’t push it.

The irony of 350-ORG supporters being upset by the antics of the Occupiers, was that behind the masks were many activists who’d actually gone to Texas to stop the XL pipeline, who’d gotten arrested, some out on $25,000 bond. How unfortunate that those troublemakers weren’t recognized from the stage. It was a real missed opportunity, this having been a rally to, um, STOP THE PIPELINE. These rowdy boring-party crashers were actually its unsung, veritable heroes. What the crowd wanted to mistake for infantile grandstanding, was really the infantile audacity that stops pipelines. Yes you get in trouble if you step off the sidewalk. Do you think the police are going to let you stop the pipeline?

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