Hundreds of indigenous people from California and across the country as well as water activists involved in fighting the Delta Water and other water infrastructure projects gathered with a crowd of over 4000 activists at the State Capitol in Sacramento on March 15 to send a clear message to Governor Jerry Brown: ban fracking, an environmentally destructive oil extraction practice that pollutes groundwater, rivers and the oceans.
Many of the speakers at the mass protest emphasized the direct connection between fracking and the Shasta Dam raise and the Governor’s peripheral tunnels plan, which will provide water for fracking.
“Brown is setting aside all the environmental rules in order to ship water south,” said Chook Chook Hillman, a member of the Karuk Tribe Hillman. “Fracking will take good water, put chemicals in it and then it will come out toxic forever. Fracking will affect all us – fracking is a terrible use of water, water that could be used for people and fish.”
Hillman, who held a banner proclaiming, “Stop Fracking Around – Undam the Klamath,” attended the protest with other members of Klamath Justice Coalition, a group that has organized many direct action protests to remove the Klamath dams and stop the Westlands Water District legal attempt to raid Trinity River water.
Chief Carleen Audrey Sisk, Tribal Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu, who led the opening ceremony and prayer, took aim at the Governor’s peripheral tunnels plan – the “Brown Water Plan,” as she calls it.
She emphasized, “Here at the Capitol a lot of Brown water planning is going on. This water is our medicine – it comes from the sacred places where the medicine comes from. We struggle to continue to take care of our waters – there is no other place we can go to practice our religion.”
The anti-fracking protest, organized by the Californians Against Fracking, featured diverse speakers including environmental justice advocates, farmers, student activists and other groups opposed to fracking. Hundreds of organizations, ranging from grassroots groups to large NGOs, helped to organized the rally.
“Fracking” is a method of oil and gas production that involves blasting millions of gallons of water, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, under high pressure deep into the earth to extract oil and gas but it can also pollute local air, water, and endanger the lives of people and wildlife, according to Corine Fairbanks, director of American Indian Movement Southern California Chapter.
Fracking exposes people to radioactivity and numerous toxic chemicals such as lead, arsenic, methanol, and benzene. The chemicals used in fracking have been linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer. The pollution to California groundwater supplies, rivers and the Delta that will result from fracking and acidization could devastate already imperiled populations of Central Valley Chinook salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species.
Fracking has been documented in 10 California counties — Colusa, Glenn, Kern, Monterey, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Sutter, Kings and Ventura. Oil companies have also fracked offshore wells in the ocean near California’s coast, from Seal Beach to the Santa Barbara Channel. Fracking may have been used elsewhere in California, since state officials have monitored neither or tracked the practice until recently, according to Fairbanks.
After the rally was over Carleen Sisk led a group of Winnemem Wintu and their supporters down to the Sacramento River at Miller Park take the “Water Challenge” to defend waters, rivers and fish population. Around 20 people cautiously waded into and then swam in the muddy waters.
“When we accept the winter water challenge and go down to our rivers, springs, lakes and oceans to make a heartfelt commitment and challenge others to do the same it makes the waters happy,” she said. “All over California the water ways are waking up with good blessings! Now accept the challenge to take the message you got to the Capitol and tell the world…no fracking chance will your Brown Water Plan destroy our sacred waters.”
Gary Mulcahy, a member of the Winnemen Wintu Tribe, stressed the need to educate and mobilise popular anger against all aspects of California water management policies:
“It is interesting how fracking would bring out 4,000 to 5,000 people to a demonstration because this fracking, one way or the other, will hurt the water supply,” he noted. “But when you talk about agribusiness taking water drip by drip and drop by drop by building canals, raising dams or building more dams supposed to supply more water than the system can deliver in the first place, only a few voices are heard like a candle in the darkness.”
“Fracking involves your water from north to south, from east to west, water that is ultimately controlled by big corporations, including agribusiness and oil companies. If fracking is bad, then so is raising dams, building new dams and building the tunnels,” he concluded.
Hopefully, this highly successful rally will be followed by even bigger rallies and demonstrations in Sacramento and throughout the state opposing fracking, the peripheral tunnels, the Shasta Dam raise and the building of new dams.
Adam Scow of Food and Water Watch, one of the co-founders of Californians Against Fracking, said anti-fracking activists will keep building the movement to put pressure on Brown to ban fracking.
“Water is a human right and fracking is a violation of that human right, as are the twin tunnels,” Scow concluded.
For more information, go to: http://www.californiansagainstfracking.org