For Immediate Release, February 9, 2016
||Michael Saul, Center for Biological Diversity, (303) 915-8308
Ruth Breech, Rainforest Action Network, (415) 238-1766
Investigation Sought After Fossil Fuel Auctioneer Reportedly
Drove Into Climate Protesters With SUV in Colorado
New Climate Protest Set for Thursday
DENVER— The Center for Biological Diversity and Rainforest Action Network today called on Bureau of Land Management officials in Colorado and Washington, D.C., to investigate a November 2015 incident in which an auctioneer working for the BLM reportedly drove into a group of fossil fuel protesters with his sport utility vehicle following a lease auction in Lakewood, Colo.
More than 100 “Keep It in the Ground” climate protesters from across Colorado gathered on public sidewalks outside the Bureau of Land Management’s Colorado State Office in Lakewood on Nov. 12 to protest the leasing of federal public lands for fossil fuel development. As part of this protest, six people engaged in a peaceful sit-in at one of the parking lot entrances of the office.
After the auction, as protesters were gathering to leave the sidewalk and parking lot entrance, witnesses say a sport utility vehicle drove into a plainly visible group of a dozen people at the parking lot entrance. The vehicle struck one person, who was taken to the hospital via ambulance for further observation. An eyewitness identified the lead auctioneer from Odle-Cumberlin Auctioneers as the vehicle’s driver, and the police incident report identifies the auctioneer as a person involved in the incident.
The incident was recorded on video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXw9hekeSvI
Today’s letter condemns the driver’s aggression against nonviolent protesters and their rights to freedom of speech and assembly and demands that the agency fully and immediately investigate its contractor’s responsibility for the incident.
“Constitutionally protected, nonviolent protest holds a critical place in the history of American social and environmental movements,” said Michael Saul, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “A new social movement is calling for our government to respond to the urgency of the climate crisis by ending new fossil fuel leasing on public lands, and the lawful actions of that movement deserve, and are entitled to, First Amendment protections.”
“BLM should not condone the actions of their contractors — who I observed calling protesters names during the auction and hitting a protester with his car,” said Ruth Breech with Rainforest Action Network. “Peaceful protest is a critical element in making our democracy work. BLM needs to investigate this incident immediately. Failing to investigate this act shows the BLM’s cavalier attitude toward public participation.”
On Thursday protesters will gather again at the Lakewood office to continue demanding an end to all new federal fossil fuel leasing in the United States. An oil and gas auction originally scheduled for Thursday at the Lakewood office was postponed due to incomplete consultation with American Indian tribes. Federal fossil fuel auctions from Alaska to Washington, D.C., have been met by “Keep It in the Ground” protests in recent months, and many auctions have been canceled or postponed.
Download a copy of today’s letter here.