PHOTOS: #NoNewLeases Protest Takes Over New Orleans Superdome

by Diana Best

March 24, 2016

Yesterday the federal government tried to quietly auction off 43 million acres of public lands and waters to oil and gas companies ... but people in the Gulf South wouldn't let them.

No New Leases Superdome

Gulf residents took to the streets to make their demands clear: keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Good afternoon from the Big Easy! This week, I was down in New Orleans, a city that has experienced firsthand the impacts of dangerous fossil fuel extraction and the devastation climate change can bring to communities — whether from sea level rise, ocean acidification, or intensifying weather.

The fossil fuel industry has long exploited the Gulf, but being here today, one thing feels very clear: the people that call this place home are powerful, courageous, and unwilling to be silenced.

Over the past week, folks from all over the Gulf and the nation have gathered in New Orleans to demand no new leases — asking the government to stop the expansion of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. People have opened up their homes for organizing, celebration, music, trainings, and art making.

New Orleans’ own Radical Arts Healing Collective, in partnership with First Seven Design Lab, hosted an around-the-clock art making space. End to end, the banners that formed this morning’s rainbow of messages in the streets of New Orleans stretched 600 feet.

Art build from Radical Arts Healing Collective, in partnership with First Seven Design Lab.

Art build from Radical Arts Healing Collective, in partnership with First Seven Design Lab.

Starting at 6:30am, people trickled into the small park near the Superdome. Anne from Louisiana Bucket Brigade led the crowd in some practice rounds of chants and songs, and did it ever come in handy later on (don’t worry, we’ll get to that).

By the time we left the park, we were several hundred strong and making our way towards the Superdome. People of all ages and backgrounds carried puppets, banners, and signs demanding an end to the federal oil program and the exploitation of the Gulf.

We carried messages about the collective power of people and the intersectionality of movements and issues, including “Black Lives Matter,” “Indigenous Rising,” “Capitalism is Exploitation,” “Migration is Beautiful.” “Love is Liberation,” “Water is a Human Right,” and others. It was beautiful to see different organizations and movements uniting together to take on the fossil fuel industry here in the Gulf.

NOLA 4

The crowd of hundreds arrives at the Superdome, site of the Federal oil and gas lease sale for over 43 million acres in the Gulf.

By the time we arrived at the Superdome, energy was very high. More than 100 people left the march and flooded the auction room where the lease sale was set to begin.

Inside the auction room, people rushed to the front as leaders from the Gulf took the stage, chanting “The Gulf is not for profit. It’s not for sale, get off it” and “Shut it down.”

The auctioneer attempted to call out the winning bid over the growing noise, but at times the activists managed to bring the event to a standstill.

Environmental justice pioneer Hilton Kelly and organizers led the crowd in songs and chants: "Not for sale!" and "Shut it down!"

Environmental justice pioneer Hilton Kelly and organizers led the crowd in songs and chants: “Not for sale!” and “Shut it down!”

As the auctioneer attempted to resume with the lease sale, the crowd's chanting and singing only grew in volume and energy.

As the auctioneer attempted to resume with the lease sale, the crowd’s chanting and singing only grew in volume and energy.

Oil reps dressed in grey suits and fancy ties did not look too happy as their lease sale was totally taken over by the crowd. Monique Verdin, an activist from Kenilworth in St. Bernard Parish, told ABC News:

“We came here to make a statement and we definitely have.”

She expanded by commenting that, for a long time, people in south Louisiana have been silent on problems associated with oil drilling. This mobilization, she hopes, will inspire others to begin speaking out.

In the end, the lease sale moved forward, but not without a few very important and interesting changes.

Despite the huge number of parcels offered (amounting to 43 million acres), the federal government received significantly fewer bids than in the past. Furthermore, this powerful lease sale disruption represents another benchmark the growing movement happening all over the country to keep federal fossil fuels in the ground.

For these reasons, two things seem very clear. First, the industry is slowing down and the climate movement is growing stronger. Second, folks from the Gulf to the Pacific Northwest to the interior of the country know that our communities cannot continue to rely on fossil fuel revenue and extraction forever.

It’s time for our leaders to put an end to federal fossil fuel leasing once and for all and support a truly just transition to a diversified economy which supports the livelihood, health, and sustainability of our communities.

The people have spoken: our public lands and waters — especially the Gulf — are not for sale!

 

Diana Best

By Diana Best

Diana Best is a senior climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace USA, based in Denver, Colorado. She began working with Greenpeace in 2008 on federal climate legislation and has since worked on reforming federal fossil fuel leasing programs and fighting new infrastructure projects around the United States. She is currently leading Greenpeace’s “Hold the Line” work aimed at halting the political and social influence of the oil industry during Trump’s administration.

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