Indigenous, community, student, and worker groups stage direct action in downtown San Francisco demanding end to toxic drilling in California. (Photo courtesy of Laurel Sutherlin)
More than 150 protesters on Friday blockaded the California State Office Building in downtown San Francisco and erected a 16-foot fracking well in the middle of an intersection to demand Governor Jerry Brown cease all drilling and fossil fuel extraction and respect climate justice.
Campaigners—who hail from labor, indigenous, student, and community organizations—were awaiting arrest at the time of publication, and their spirits remained “jubilant and defiant,” Brooke Anderson, organizer with Climate Workers and Movement Generation, told Common Dreams.
The action was organized by the Bay Area Climate Justice Action Council, which brings together a broad array of organizations and affinity groups, and it comes just one day before thousands of people are slated to mobilize for the March for Real Climate Leadership in Oakland on Saturday.
“Idle No More is out here today to pressure Governor Brown from fracking in California,” Pennie Opal Plant, organizer with the San Francisco Bay Area chapter, told Common Dreams. “The collusion at every U.S. government level with the fossil fuel industry is so outrageous that everyone should be out in the streets and protesting the demolishing of our water, our earth, and our air.”
Brown, a Democrat, has sought to portray himself as a leader on climate change, but continues to allow the shale gas industry to frack within the state, including in areas near elementary schools, farms, and residential neighborhoods. Campaigners are outraged at his tacit promotion of this water-intensive drilling process, especially as California grapples with a historic drought.
They point out, furthermore, that refineries, pipelines, incinerators, and fracking wells are disproportionately placed in communities where poor and working class, immigrant, and people of color live.
“Fracking poisons the food that we eat, that we feed to our families, and that we serve to our customers,” Veronica Garcia, organizer with labor union UNITE HERE 2850, declared in a press statement released ahead of the action. “The oil industry is affecting our communities. It’s happening in our backyards, not the bosses’ backyard.”
“We hope Governor Brown gets the message,” added Anderson.
Four people locked themselves to the symbolic rig in the intersection, which a climber mounted with a flag reading, “End Fracking.”
The Idle No More movement, meanwhile, is leading a Round Dance in the street, bearing a large parachute calling for climate justice.
Seven labor organizers have blockaded the doors to the state building, bearing a banner that blares, “Labor against fracking.”
A group of 15 to 20 people from the the Buddhist Peace Fellowship are sitting on the steps of the state building meditating, amid banners that read, “Mindful of Fracking Disasters”—a direct appeal to Brown, who identifies as a Buddhist.
Many of the people who are being blocked from entering the building have, in fact, expressed support for the goals of the action, and some have even pledged to call Brown to urge him to say no to toxic drilling, say organizers.
According to Anderson: “As soon as we sat down to block the building it started to rain, the first measurable drop of rain in 2015. Mother Earth is on our side and taking direct action too.”