The Central Valley added its voice among the many who gathered together to rally against fracking in California on Saturday, March 15th, on the north steps of the State Capitol building. Sponsored by the "grassroots" organization "MoveOn", the bus collected concerned citizens from across the Central Valley, delivering them to the State Capitol at approximately 1 pm, where they were met by almost 3,000 other concerned Californians who had arrived from across the entire state, to gather together for what was advertised as "the largest anti-fracking rally in the history of California."
The rally, organized by an assortment of key national and local organizations (among them Californians Against Fracking, Food and Water Watch, Move-On, and Greenpeace) collectively chartered approximately 26 buses in order to facilitate the attendance of as many concerned California citizens as possible to this historic event.
The primary goal of this rally was to implore Governor Brown and his legislators to place an immediate suspension on fracking in California by their passing of SB 1132. Its authors-State Senators Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno-were also in attendance of this rally.
The rally featured approximately sixteen guest speakers in all, who collectively urged Governor Brown to honor his promise to California that-when elected to office-he would do all in his power to support and strengthen laws that would collectively work together to protect California's threatened water resources and rectify its serious problems with air pollution (with its "hotspot" being California's Central Valley) and earthquakes-all of which are directly and adversely affected by fracking, according to the latest investigative studies conducted by various scientific disciplines.
Also on the table that day for serious discussion was the problem of climate-induced drought and the long-term goal of decarbonizing California's economic foundation; the latter of which had been an oft-repeated concern of Governor Brown's during his run for office, but which has appeared to take a backseat in implementation of since his election to office. All of the above concerns and more were addressed by that event's guest speakers.
Among those Central Valley citizens who participated as guest speakers was Tom Frantz. A fourth generation Kern County almond farmer and long time clean air activist, Frantz was responsible for successfully bringing charges against an oil company that illegally dumped waste in the Central Valley, and on Saturday afternoon he delivered a powerful and poignant speech, which was greeted with wild applause by that day's exuberant audience.
In describing the process of fracking for extraction of natural gas, Frantz described the negative effects this process has on the underground water system, due to the inability of responsible management of its waste product: a potent mix of toxic chemicals delivered deep underground, carried by millions of gallons of water that, once delivered to its targets, is forever lost from the natural underground watershed. Noted Frantz, "They (the companies performing fracking) don't clean or recycle this water. It's simply contaminated, then put deep within the earth forever! We'll never see it again; it's gone from the water cycle. We cannot continue to grow food and breath healthy air and maintain a healthy water supply...and the only 'winners' I see are those making the short-term profits. Everyone else is losing!"
Central Valley residents Rosa Lupez, Rodrigo Romo and Javier Cruz-all of whom work with the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment-also delivered stirring speeches to the audience. Romo lives in Shafter: a small town of 17,000 in Kern County, about 18 miles northwest of Bakersfield and infamously known as one of California’s "toxic hotspots." Reflecting on the Central Valley's present and future environmental challenges, Romo observed: “This is a problem that not only affects me, but future generations yet to come in the Central Valley. I would love to leave a better and healthier community for the next generations to come, not a community that will be carrying a big burden in their health.”
But perhaps the afternoon's most impassioned speech, delivered entirely in Spanish and translated into English by Mr. Romo, was given by an unnamed and unscheduled Mexican-American farmer from the Central Valley. Dramatically raising his hand to his heart-with visible tears in his eyes-he exclaimed, "President Obama, you are like a stubborn donkey in your refusal to deal with this problem! I'm worried about the health of my children, the health of my grandchildren! I'm worried what this is doing to the farmlands themselves; how it's affecting the future viability of the soil itself!"
The rally, which in addition to its guest speakers featured live music from local musicians, culminated in a march around the grounds of the State Capitol building, with anti-fracking slogans proudly displayed on a sea of posters and banners held aloft by over 4,000 statewide California activists, as curious State Capitol employees peered out from various windows in the upper floor of the Capitol building, surveying the sight.
As participants completed their march around the State Capitol building, they were serenaded by local musicians strumming acoustic guitars, while the odd trumpet, marching drum and other assorted instruments chimed in here and there, adding a touch of musical whimsy to the positively festive occasion. "Ain't gonna let those fracking turn me around, turn me around, turn me around! Ain't gonna let those fracking turn me around! I'm gonna keep on a-walkin', keep on a-talkin'! Marchin' up to freedom land!" proudly proclaimed both the protestors and clusters of musicians, singing in one unified voice so loud that it could literally be heard a full five blocks away from the State Capitol building.
In addition to the music of assorted, unnamed, wandering groups of musicians, there was Bill Hunter and his band "San Benito Rising" and the "fun and feisty" music of "The Ragin' Grannies." As with most outdoor events, music played an integral part in the day's activities and was a direct reflection of the attitudes of its participants. Pete Seeger, a staunch activist who vigorously rallied against fracking right up until his demise this year, would have been proud.
Here is a complete list of all the scheduled guest speakers for the Sacramento State Capitol Anti-Fracking Rally, listed in the order of their appearance:
Spiritual Leader and Tribal Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe along the McCloud Watershed of Northern California.
Huey Johnson-Huey Johnson is the former Secretary of Resources in the Brown Administration (1978-1982), founder of Resource Renewal Institute, the Trust for Public Land and the Grand Canyon Trust.
Rosa Lupez, Rodrigo Romo, and Javier Cruz-
Rosa Lupez, Rodrigo Romo, Javier Cruz are three Central Valley community residents that work with the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment.
Dr. Tim Krantz-Dr. Tim Krantz is a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer at the Vienna Technical University, and a Professor at the University of Redlands in Southern California. Dr. Krantz’s area of expertise is geography, and he is joining us to talk about the impacts of fracking on California’s water.
Erin Bustillos-Erin Bustillos is a registered nurse and a proud member of the California Nurses' Association. She is joining us full of courage, standing up on behalf of all California nurses and citizens against fracking.
Tom Frantz-Tom Frantz is a Shafter almond farmer. He is a fourth generation Kern County farmer, CRPE board member, poet, retired math teacher, long time clean air activist and the man responsible for busting an oil company for illegally dumping waste in the Central Valley.
Latrice Carter-Latrice Carter is an activist from fracked a community in Carson City, Nevada.
Wes Adrianson and Kristy Drutman-Wes and Kristy are students at UC Berkeley and work with UC Berkeley Students Against Fracking.
Adam Scow-Adam Scow is the California Campaigns Director of Food and Water Watch and works with Californians Against Fracking.
Rose Braz-Rose Braz is the Climate Campaign Director at the Center for Biological Diversity and works with Californians Against Fracking.
Pennie Opal Plant-Pennie Opal Plant is a Native American activist and small business owner from Richmond. Penny is here with the bay area affinity group of Idle No More, a mass movement for Indigenous rights and resistance to global corporate colonization.
David Braun-David Braun is the co-founder of Americans Against Fracking and currently is working with Californians Against Fracking.
A special "thank you" to photographer TRACY HYDORN, for graciously allowing this writer and Examiner the use of her eloquent, powerful photographs she took of this special event. You are AWESOME, Tracy!!
Thank you to CESAR CAMPOS for kindly allowing this writer and Examiner the use of your video of this special event.