It was 7:00 am, the last day of the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s annual convention in Philadelphia, when a group of 40 or so people gathered to meet the gas industry face to face. “We just wanted to see what they had to say for themselves” said one of the protesters. It turned out the industry delegates weren’t so shy for talking after-all.
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The convention was called “Shale Gas Insight” and took place in the fortified Philadelphia Convention Center in downtown Philly. The convention hosted hundreds of vendors and representatives from just about every company involved in hydraulic fracturing, or “Fracking” as some call it. You can read about the workshop titles here.
The action, called “Sunrise Intervention” by local organizers, succeeded in bringing people together to face the industry on their own terms. For hours, industry representatives were forced to pass through an aggressive picket at the front entrance with banners, flags, drums, and chants. This was preceded by a “walk of shame” in which the delegates were verbally confronted for an entire city block in public view. As they approached the convention center, people physically blocked them from entering. To say the least, it became a venue for interesting conversation.
“I really valued the honesty on behalf of the delegates” said a bystander. At one point a group of uniformed charter school kids joined in the fun, taking pictures–laughing and pointing.
“We were hoping the delegates would get arrested for collaborating in environmental crimes” said one of the picketers when the police arrived. But they didn’t.
“I’m too scared to do the right thing” whispered an officer from his car. The police then separating the picket onto either side of the main entrance, ushering delegates off the sidewalk into the road.
Although the police established a ritualistic presence, they didn’t do much to protect the delegates from the angry crowd. Perhaps they weren’t too impressed with the gas industry’s policy on public health.
The protest lasted a couple more hours, police & all, making it difficult for delegates to reach the door. Once most of the delegates were inside, the protest ended in an un-permitted march through downtown Philadelphia to meet up with an ACT UP rally and street theater performance.