Washington DC – Stop the Frack Attack Convergence and Rally

When we decided to investigate the impact of shale and coal seam gas development in the United States, we didn’t know that the campaigners in the US were planning a national anti-fracking rally in Washington. By sheer coincidence we had planned to be in Washington on the 28th of  July, the day of the Stop the Frack Attack Rally on front of the US Congress building.

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Stop the Frack Attack was a four day convergence of campaigners from across the United States.

The event started with the arrival of the Tour de Frack, a group of residents from Pavilion who had ridden their pushbikes from Pennsylvania carrying the brown tap water that now flows from the faucets of many homes reliant on well water in that part of America.

The next day was a coordinated lobby campaign where politicians all over America were targeted by teams trying to get their message to protect community health across to the decision makers.

Day three involved a day of workshops with local updates, campaign strategy development, and media training. So many of the debates, campaign suggestions, concerns about messaging, and the importance of  building alliances, mirrored  debates we have been having in Australia.

Another similarity was the diversity and good will of participants who had come from around 15 states across America to be at the event, to share their ideas, and to find inspiration from others facing the same local impacts from gas drilling. The workshops were followed that night with a forum with speakers like Bill McKibben, Josh Fox and JohnFenton. It was one of the most emotionally charged and inspiring evenings Ihave ever been a part of since starting this campaign. It can’t be summarised effectively and I encourage everyone interested in protecting our land and water in Australia to watch the speeches in this tube video. They start (at 13 minutes) with my new friend John Fenton from Wyoming.

I left the forum feeling very grateful to have been welcomed by our friends in the US into their campaign and to hear these amazing stories. It was clear everyone was excited about the rally the next day.

Around 5,000 people converged on Congress the next day. Lock the Gate President, Drew Hutton managed to grab Josh Fox and Bill McKibben for a photograph with the Lock the Gate banner that our team had carried across the US just for this day. It was a good turnout given the long distances for many in the US, the tight economic times and the daily battles people continue to face in their own communities which kept many trapped in their home towns.

Many speakers outlined the horror stories from the US, many sounded familiar from our experiences. The same stories or political leaders that seemed captured by the mining industry, unwilling to even support basic scientific research to consider the potential hazards of many aspects of gas drilling.

It was important to be in the US for this weekend. To share in the stories and experiences we are having in Australia and to hear the messages from the US has been invaluable for both sides. There is truly a global movement that is building around the most basic concerns for clean water, land to grow our food and a healthy environment in which to live. We march in solidarity with our American friends taking our message with us and hoping our presence could help in its own small way.

The next step is the Global Frack Down on 22 September. I hope many groups out there will take the opportunity to get involved in the day and organise their own local event to help grow this global movement.

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