After Arrests, Anti-Fossil Fuel Activists Receives Donations to Pay Legal Fees
Environmental activists who were arrested for breaking the law while protesting at the Colorado state capital last week ahead of Governor Jared Polis’ annual State of the State address are receiving financial help from leading liberal figures.
The activists were primarily members of Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement, according to the Denver Post. Both groups employ extreme tactics in their campaign to end oil and natural gas production. Extinction Rebellion is a British-based group that has received funding from several California millionaires, as Western Wire has previously reported, while the Sunrise Movement is backed by the Rockefeller Family Foundation and received harsh criticism for sending out a fake press release to Colorado media.
Nearly 40 protestors were arrested for shouting and chanting in the chamber’s gallery leading up to Polis’ speech. They were calling on the governor to take stronger action against the oil and gas industry. The protesters were charged with trespassing and disrupting a lawful assembly.
A GoFundMe page was set up to pay for the protestor’s legal fees but had only raised $5,246 of a $13,000 goal as of Wednesday morning. There was one anonymous $1,000 donation, but nearly every other contribution was $100 or less.
Notable donors included Micah Parkin, the head of 350.org’s Colorado chapter, Annie Lee Foster, a leading member of Colorado Rising, and Cliff Willmeng, who heads the anti-oil and natural gas group East Boulder County United.
Andrew Romanoff, the former Colorado House Speaker running for U.S. Senate and who has been endorsed by the Sunrise Movement tweeted, “drop the charges,” but he hasn’t appeared to make a donation. Two Democratic State Reps., Jonathan Singer and Adrieene Benavidez, also came to the defense of the protestors and said they shouldn’t have been arrested and detained.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also drew national attention to the protests by tweeting his support. “They do not deserve to be arrested – they deserve to be applauded and heard,” Sanders said.
The protests at the state capital is the just latest incident of increasing pressure directed towards Polis from the left flank of his party, which claims he hasn’t done enough to address climate change and end fracking in the state. In 2018, Colorado Rising pushed Proposition 112 – a ballot measure that would have increased the setback distance for production in the state – and the group only gave lukewarm support when Polis signed SB-181 last year to overhaul oil and gas regulations.
At the time, Polis hoped SB-181 would move the issue to the backburner, saying, “Today, with the signing of this bill, it is our hope that the oil and gas wars that have enveloped our state are over.”
Yet, the wars have not subsided as the activists aim to keep the fight going. Just two days before the protests at the state capitol, Colorado Rising announced it was introducing six new ballot initiatives for the 2020 elections with similar goals of Prop 112.
The growing pressures from ballot initiatives and protests will continue to test Polis’ political acumen as he tries to both meet the demands of environmental voters while not alienating the business community.
That balancing act was again on display as last week after the protests as Polis also told the Denver Post he doesn’t support a fracking ban and threw cold water on the tactics used by the protestors. He told Colorado Public Radio that while he supports their right to be civically engaged, he warned that protests that lead to arrests can “backfire” because they harm the relationships with lawmakers that are needed to pass favored policies.