Protest Delays Keynote Speech by “One-term Tom” Corbett
“Corbett says, no taxation! Corbett says, no regulation! Corbett says, just devastation!” –Chants rang out beginning at 9:15 a.m. today, as a lively and broad-based demonstration pulled together on short notice got underway. The public learned only three days ago, thanks to the Philadelphia Inquirer, that Governor Corbett would keynote the Natural Gas Summit today at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
Protecting Our Waters and other anti-fracking activists joined Philadelphia Fight, the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, Philadelphia Students Union, AFL-CIO, SEIU, and others angry at the governor for “fracking up Pennsylvania” in more ways than one. Corbett has slashed education funding even while allowing the shale gas industry to poison air, water and land. Governor Corbett has gone so far as to sue the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania — at taxpayer expense — in an attempt to take away the last bastion of control Pennsylvanians have over their lives in relation to the fracking industry: municipalities’ right to regulate this toxic heavy industry when it comes to town.
The protesters delayed Corbett’s keynote address by about an hour, as his handlers sought, and failed, to find an entrance to the Franklin Institute which would enable him to avoid facing angry members of the public. Scuttling in to the Institute through a side door, Corbett encountered an angry protester shouting at him to stop fracking Pennsylvania. “He turned pink, then red,” reported the protester.
Yesterday Corbett sacked yet another department head, this time the Secretary of Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), for undisclosed reasons. Rick Allan, the outgoing DCNR chief, according to the grassroots organization Gas Truth, “never should have had that job to begin with“; he was a former scrap metal operator with no experience in forestry and no qualifications to head DCNR. The last shreds of Corbett’s credibility have surely withered into the distant ether by now, as he keeps firing the department heads he himself appointed, one after another — Health, Parks, Forests. Department heads are rolling like so many bowling balls in the gutter of Corbett’s clumsy game.
Perhaps these forced resignations constitute a bizarre attempt to make it look “as if” Corbett himself cares about the environment and public health, “as if” it’s just his incompetent department heads who coincidentally haven’t managed to protect the environment or public health while obeying Corbett’s command.
Department heads, however, were less of a concern to the protesters than the sustainability of their daily lives, both economically and ecologically. An economic justice activist shifted from “education not incarceration!” to “we charge you with ecocide,” at one point. The favorite unifying chant at this morning’s rally outside the Franklin Institute was “One-term Tom!” with “Can Corbett now!” picking up steam.
Activists prevented from entering Franklin Institute — or chatting on its steps — in order to “protect the children”
Soon after the Philadelphia Inquirer published its story about today’s Natural Gas Summit, I registered for the event by phone at the API (American Petroleum Institute) number listed. I wanted to find out not only what our governor, but the API, Chamber of Commerce, Philadelphia Gas Works and all the industry folks had to say about their plans, and ask questions if possible. The very polite Stephen Arnold of API took my registration, kindly emailed me a flyer about the event, and answered my questions (“When will Governor Corbett be speaking? The event is free, correct?”) when I called back on Wednesday and on Thursday. I gave my name, phone number, email, and organization.
So did Matt Walker of Clean Air Council. So did Sharon Kelly, who writes for the excellent DeSmogBlog. We all registered, and we all expected to cover the event in detail for the vitally interested public.
Each of us was denied access to the event despite having registered ahead of time.
Each of us was taken by surprise. The API guy who denied me entrance claimed that it was an “invitation only” event, although API had not mentioned this when they accepted my registration over the phone, or any of the three times I spoke with and corresponded with them. I asked Mr. API his name, since I had certainly given mine. “Josh,” he said. Josh apparently has no last name — either that, or he’s just uncomfortable about the anger he displayed in the process of denying access to a public forum at a public institution about an incredibly important issue, refusing to allow entrance to anyone who might publicly criticize the fracking industry lobby.
As I walked down the Franklin Institute steps after being definitively denied access to the event a second time, a large-shouldered man hovered inches away. When I paused to join Matt Walker and Sharon Kelly on the steps, surrounded by about an acre of wide-open steps with not another soul on the steps, the Franklin Institute man said, “Move off the steps, keep moving.” Wow. That blew me away. I said to him that was just a bit fascistic, don’t you think? I wanted to see Matt’s photo of his infant. We all happen to like each other in addition to doing good work together to protect children and other living things from poisonous processes destroying our air, water, health, and democratic structures.
The big-shouldered man said, “We have to protect the children,” but he couldn’t meet my eyes when he said it. He looked down. Clearly they had been programmed to say that their motive in everything they do — denying people access to the governor’s keynote; forbidding registered guests from attending an important event; chasing chatting community-building activists off the public steps of the very public Franklin Institute — is to “protect children.”
Wow. That’s messaging for you. That’s framing for you. Contaminating children’s drinking water and lying about it doesn’t hurt children. Spewing benzene, acetone, naphthalene, and nitrous oxide as well as CO2 and voluminous methane into the air doesn’t hurt children, cause asthma, create smog or escalate climate change or anything, but 3 or 4 activists chatting together with no children within 50 yards of us, well, that threatens children all right, I’m sure. Absolutely yes Mr. Franklin Institute Big Shouldered Man, I promise to never ever again remotely endanger any children by chatting with friends on the Franklin Institute steps!