DNR Land Auction met with resistance in Lansing
On Wednesday, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hosted one of its bi-annual auctions for leasing mineral rights for oil & gas companies across the state.
We reported about the resistance to the DNR land auction in May, since the method known as fracking is becoming more common as a means to extract natural gas throughout the country. At the DNR auction that took place yesterday, there was another wave of resistance that involved numerous tactics.
Registration for the DNR auction began at 8am on October 24 and dozens of people were already outside holding signs in opposition to the auctioning off of land rights to companies only interested in profits and not environmental protection or public health.
In addition to those who protested outside, some people released a banner attached to balloons inside, while others who sat in the room where the auction was taking place began to express their opposition to the land auction through chants and signs.
At one point several people stepped over the divider separating the public seating and the bidder seating, locked arms and sat of the floor in an act of civil disobedience. Simultaneously, there were some noise tools released to disrupt the auction and then the whole room began chanting in opposition to fracking and the arrest of those who sat down.
Nearly everyone who wasn’t a bidder, which included about 60 people, continued chanting for sometime, until one protestor got everyone’s attention by using a technique commonly used during Occupy gatherings. The protestor said mic-check and people stopped chanting. Then this person told us that the cops were now going to tell the rest of those in the room what “their rights were.”
This was an unfortunate outcome, since it not only took away the momentum from the crowd, it also gave legitimacy to the police.
A DNR cop told those in the room who were attempting to disrupt the DNR auction, that if they spoke up or made any kind of noise once the auction process began that they would be “evicted from the space or arrested.”
Now everyone is quiet and the auction is able to proceed. However, once they began bidding on public land for oil & gas rights and announcing that specific parcels of land were sold, people began to say, “stolen, not sold. This land is now stolen.” When people began say this they were quickly approached by DNR officers, grabbed and escorted out of the room.
Once out of the room, officers took down information and told each person removed from the auction that they had to leave the building and if they re-entered they would be immediately arrested.
This tactic of verbally disrupting he auction went on for some time and dozens of people were forced to leave the Lansing Center, where the DNR auction was being held. Many people then gathered out front and either continued to have a physical presence in opposition to the DNR granting fracking rights to private companies or they talk with people from other communities, networking and talking about upcoming events and action possibilities.
Later on in the day the fire alarm in the Lansing Center went off, which brought the fire department in and over a hundred high school students out who were attending another event inside. However, when the student came out, many of them joined in with the protestors, chanting, holding signs and getting an education in the politics of fracking.
In addition to this there were people who were doing jail solidarity, since at least six people were arrested and being detained by the DNR police and held at the Lansing City jail. A lawyer and several other activists were able to determine that those arrested were being charge with both felonies and misdemeanors and would not be arraigned until the next day (Thursday).
Charging people with felonies was clearly a tactic to not only intimidate people, but to send a message to future actions that might try to disrupt or shut down a DNR land auction.
However, lots of people pitched in funds and by the time this writer left, it appeared that enough money was raised to bail out people who had been arrested. Anyone wanting to financially supports those who were arrested, you can contribute at this link http://lansingstopfrackingfund.chipin.com/bail-money-to-stop-fracking.
Many people were still involved in protesting the DNR auction even at 3pm, when this writer left the Lansing Center area and it was clear that a diverse group of people came from all over the state with the intent to protest and disrupt the DNR land auction that will allow oil & gas companies to drilling and extract fossil fuels from public land.
The Resistance Continues!