Colorado Town Knocks Down Proposal Excusing ‘Direct Action’ Against Frackers

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Chris White Tech Reporter

A small town in Colorado blocked a proposal Wednesday that would have essentially protected anti-fracking activists from being held liable for creating blockades or trespassing to stymie energy projects.

Lafayette City, Colo., Mayor Christine Berg dinged a proposal at a city council meeting that would have granted activists who carry out “direct action” against oil projects almost complete immunity from arrest. Members of the city council blasted the measure as well.

“The language … I don’t think it’s enforceable, the language is loose, it’s hard to interpret, I don’t think it needs to be in our code,” Berg, a Democrat, said, referring to the language activist and city council member Merrily Mazza used to promote the proposal.

The council voted in May 2017 to strip similar language from the “Climate Bill of Rights” (BOR), which codifies residents’ right to a healthy climate. Mazza, an activist with East Boulder County United (EBCU), suggested at the meeting that adding “direct action” to the BOR would mark “a very powerful political statement for our community.”

Other members of the council expressed sympathy for Mazza’s cause, but ultimately sided with Berg. Council member Jamie Harkins, for instance, admitted to protesting herself in the past, but disagreed with the “direct action” provision.

“I want to make sure we do this the most effective way as possible,” she said. “As someone who has many years under my belt of developing city policy I found the language, though well-meaning, really vague and the definition of direct action, to me that could, how it reads, sanction things that … definitely things that are not non-violent.”

Colorado activists have made belligerent demonstrations in the past targeting the state’s natural gas industry.

One activist wrote a letter to the editor in Colorado’s Daily Camera newspaper on April 19, claiming that citizens have a moral obligation to destroy pipelines and eliminate oil jobs if they violate the sensibilities of Colorado residents. Editors altered the piece after publication, but left the writer’s basic thesis in place: Violence may be the only way to prevent pipeline construction.

“If the oil and gas industry puts fracking wells in our neighborhoods, threatening our lives and our children’s lives, then don’t we have a moral responsibility to blow up wells and eliminate fracking and workers?” Andrew O’Connor wrote in a letter to the paper’s editors. He is not alone.

Activists with EBCU “bullied and threatened” the Boulder Chamber Orchestra in May 2017 with “inappropriate” Facebook comments, the orchestra wrote in a statement at the time. Demonstrators stormed the orchestra’s social media page for daring to accept money from an energy group.

“The activists were using our Facebook page as a bully pulpit for their social media lobbying efforts,” the group added, referring to anti-fracking demonstrators’ efforts to espouse their belief that gas, and energy development is akin to murder.

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