Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rally participant offers first-hand account

By Vincent M. Pedre, MD
Integrative Medicine Physician

On a balmy night for this time of year, Saturday, December 11th, members of the historical Pennsylvania Society met at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City for their grand ball – a culmination of a weekend of events where politicians rub elbows with their corporate benefactors and other campaign contributors. It is estimated that the Waldorf party was sponsored by 30 corporations, including Aetna Health and Accenture LLP, about 1/3 of which hold PA state contracts worth tens of millions of dollars.

This was the 112th year for this event, where politicians can make contacts and meet fundraisers. Of note, the culminating after-dinner party was sponsored by the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

While the festivities got underway indoors, representatives from organizations that have been vocally working against fracking in PA and NY got together outside the Waldorf to express their views.

Party attendees in evening gowns and black ties were greeted as they entered the Waldorf by protesters also dressed up in fancy dresses and black ties. One of the rally co-organizers explained, “We dressed up because we wanted to break down the stereotypes that are normally associated with these issues.” She added, “People aren’t expecting this. It helps to break down barriers, allowing people to connect with this important issue, and it shows that we are all the same.”

In total, about 100 protesters rallied outside of the Waldorf-Astoria with signs while chanting: “Governor Corbett, hear us say, no fracking way.”

A rally attendant stated, “As a concerned mother, I want people to know that this is more than just an environmental issue, this is a matter of public health and the health of our children.” Another protester added, “We need a sensible policy for renewable energy in Pennsylvania, and to move away from fracking.”

Several protesters approached guests at the PA Society event, attempting to create dialogue. When queried about their concern for the health of fellow Pennsylvanians, one guest simply said, “I don’t care,” while another replied, “We should just extract as much gas as possible.”

But there were also positive responses from some attendees of Corbett’s party. The lady of one arriving couple in tux and gown made a point of thanking the protesters. She said she would talk personally to the Governor-Elect later that evening, and she would press the protesters’ message upon him.

The rally was sponsored by over 14 grassroots organizations from both NY and PA, including Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, United for Action, Frack Action, Protecting our Waters, and Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy. The purpose for this rally was to show unity between organizations in the two states in regards to this issue on the heels of the DRBC release of proposed regulations this past week, NY Governor Paterson’s veto of the moratorium bill in NY state replaced by a more lenient executive order, and the fast-track pro-drilling stance of Pennsylvania’s Governor-elect Tom Corbett.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Dr. Pedre, for this coverage. The demonstration at the "hyphen" (Waldorf-Astoria) was a sophisticated protest because by dressing up in evening clothes and black tie, mirroring turn of the century barons of industry who continue in 2010 to attend from PA to lobby for New York cash, anti-shale protesters showed they are not by any means riff-raff, a perception used to denigrate protesters for generations. Most are well educated professionals, some are successful investors, yet they are against shale gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed. Quite a few are successful artists who can afford to live in the City and also in upper New York State and PA, including one of the main organizers who is a painter, whose idea it was to dress up in evening clothes and by so doing erase a major distinction (appearance of class) between anti-drillers and pro-drilling Big Energy owners, investors and contractors, leaving only the dramatic contrast of message: "Gov Corbett, hear us say, no fracking way!" vs "Let's make a ton of money by risking drinking water and environment by fracking."