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Rallying For Local Fracking Regulations

by Matthew Merchant

With signs raised high and voices echoing, anti-fracking demonstrators rallied and marched from the streets of downtown Kent to Kent State’s campus Saturday to raise awareness for Issue 21, a proposed anti-fracking law on the Nov. 4 ballot.

As part of the Global Frackdown, an international day of advocacy aimed at raising awareness of local fracking operations of oil and gas companies, the Kent Environmental Rights Group rallied, marched and painted the rock on front campus. Other events in Ohio included rallies locally in Lakewood and Ashtabula county, and globally in London, Paris, Madrid and other major cities.

“How much longer are you, the resident of Kent, willing to wait? How much environmental harm and destruction of the community you love are you willing to sit back and watch and allow?” said Tish O’Dell, the Ohio community organizer for the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. “Is this easy? No, and you’re finding that out. Will there be a price to pay for saving the world, for saving Kent? Absolutely.”

CELDF has been supporting KERG since April when the local advocacy group was formed. KERG recently proposed an amendment to the City of Kent Charter that would ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, within city limits. The proposed amendment is on the Nov. 4 ballot as Issue 21.

“(KERG) is as grassroots as it gets,” said Lee Brooker, a member of the group. “The industry is obviously well-monied, and we really need donations.”

The protest march and rally, held in the gazebo area in Kent next to the Pufferbelly restaurant, was intended both to raise awareness for the ballot issue and to raise money for the sponsor organizations. Representatives from KERG, Food and Water Watch, Concerned Citizens Ohio and other anti-fracking and environmental rights groups collected donations, passed out muffins and cookies to passers-by, and handed out fliers–often while holding picket signs or poster boards.

O’Dell was just one of four speakers at the event. Gwen Fischer of Concerned Citizens Ohio, Ron Prosek of the Northeast Ohio Gas Accountability Project and Ted Voneida of the Kent Environmental Council also presented information on fracking or spoke from personal experience.

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