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Anti-fracking protest in Lansing disrupts public land auction

May 8, 2012

An estimated 80 people traveled to Lansing today to take part in a demonstration against the public auctioning of land for the purpose of fracking for natural gas.

The public auction of land was facilitated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), at Constitutional Hall, a building just west of the State Capital. Most of those who came for the protest stayed outside with signs, information tables and a petition campaign that would ban fracking from taking place anywhere within the State of Michigan.

Other people who made the trip to Lansing went into the building to either act as observers of the public auction to disrupt the proceedings. This writer went inside for the first 90 minutes to document what was happening.

People who were there to bid on public land had to register with the DNR before entering the room being used for the public auction. Before the auction even state representatives from the DNR were asking people to leave the room if they had not registered, even if they were news media.

There were ongoing tensions between the DNR & building security and people who felt that since the auction was of public land and being facilitated by a government entity (DNR), they should have every right to be present to observe the proceedings. People who had entered the room without registering were individually confronted and asked to leave.

However, even after those who were asked to leave had registered, many of them were not allowed to enter because of room capacity, which is the reason that the DNR gave. There was back and forth discussion about public transparency and how unacceptable it was for the public to not be able to observe the proceedings.

After 30 minutes of verbal confrontation, city and state police arrived to intimidate people and remove a few that were not compliant.

At 9:00AM the public land auction began by individual parcels from counties across the state in alphabetical order. After an hour of auctioning this writer left the room go back outside to see what protesters were doing.

Once outside I was told that at about 9:00AM several people entered the lobby and began chanting in the hopes that the noise would disrupt the public land auction. At 10:00AM the protesters outside moved away from the main entrance and found a spot on the north side of the building where the auction was taking place.

Once the crowd moved to a different location, they began making noise by chanting and banging on drums in order to disrupt what was going on inside. Here is some video footage of that action.

The protest lasted about 45 minutes just outside of the room where the DNR land auction was taking place, when eventually the police showed up in large numbers and demanded that the protesters move back up to the sidewalk area. Once people moved back up to the street, it became apparent that the police were there to arrest people if the disruption continued, with nearly 20 officers, 8 cars and police dogs on the scene.

By 10:30AM we began getting reports from people inside that several people began to disrupt the public land auction. We found out that some people made statements and others bid on land and then never paid the cost. We also heard that some people were actually buying public land as a way to prevent those parcels from being subjected to the drilling necessary for natural gas fracking.

We had the opportunity to interview two people who participated in some form of disruption inside.

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