Photos and article by Will Bennington
Hartford, Conn.—Prospective investors in the Canadian tar sands were met by demonstrators [Jan 29, 2013] at a meeting hosted by the US Commercial Service and the Canadian Consulate General.
Throughout the morning, climate justice organizers with Green Mountain Earth First!, Rising Tide Vermont, and Capitalism vs. the Climate attempted to enter the highly guarded meeting, although no demonstrators were able to pass through security check points.
The meeting, described on the Export.gov website as, “…an opportunity for Connecticut businesses in the areas of Oil and Natural Resource Service sector to explore concrete opportunities for export in support of the ongoing development in the Alberta Oil Sands region,” involved billions of dollars of investment opportunities. Sponsors included Exxon-Mobil subsidiary Imperial Oil, Suncor Energy, Canadian Natural Resources Limited and Cenovus.
Police were on-scene before demonstrators arrived early in the morning. The first attempt to enter the building was met with rapid police response, and demonstrators were threatened with arrest for a misdemeanor. Management at Constitution Plaza, where the event was held, had placed a “standing complaint” against any unauthorized persons who entered the building for the day.
“The police presence was obscene,” said Chris Schroth, an organizer with Rising Tide Vermont. “The real criminals are the people on the 19th floor of this building, who are investing in the destruction of ecosystems, First Nations and the planet.”
Demonstrators also attempted to disrupt the meeting by placing parking and directional signs around Constitution Plaza, directing attendees away from the building. One sign read, “Canadian Oil Sands Event Cancelled.”
Tar sands, which are mined primarily in Alberta, Canada, are extremely toxic and require a massive amount of resources to extract. Areas where tar sands are mined look like moonscapes, and vital boreal forests are destroyed to reach the oil which is bound up in sand.
Many First Nations are actively fighting in courts and on the land to stop tar sands extraction, which threatens their health, communities and lifestyle. The environmental movement at-large is opposed to tar sands mining, because of its tremendous ecological and social impacts, and evidence that suggests burning tar sands oil releases twice as much CO2 as conventional sources of oil.
As attendees of the Oil Sands event left the meeting, 30 demonstrators – including members of Occupy Hartford and the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network – staged a dramatic “die-in,” pretending to die on the sidewalk in front of the building. Pika, an organizer with Green Mountain Earth First! read a statement of solidarity with First Nations and ecosystems.
“I feel sick and heartbroken to think that corporate interests are valued above all else, at the expense of entire ecosystems and communities being destroyed.”
A Vermont resident, Pika spent last fall in Texas with the Tar Sands Blockade, fighting to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
During the die-in, a meeting attendee accused demonstrators of protesting oil development even though they may have driven cars to the demonstration. Most participants in the die-in coolly dismissed his logical fallacy.
“Should we stay at home to conserve energy, while corporate executives travel all over the world to profit from destroying the planet?” asked Schroth during an interview. “Of course not. We need to meet these people wherever they go and let them know their disregard for human and non-human life is unacceptable.”
Will Bennington is a Development Associate with Global Justice Ecology Project, and a member of Rising Tide Vermont.