I am not able to be at Shale Gas Outrage in person–though I’d give an ARM to be–but I have been offered an AWESOME opportunity of three beautiful minutes to talk about one of the most important events in recent Pennsylvania Environmental and social justice history: RIVERDALE. Below are the remarks that will be read at the Shale Gas Outrage Rally–TOMORROW! If one sentence of these remarks encourages any of the maybes out there to GO to Philli, well, YEAH!!!!!!!

Shale Gas Outrage

Thanks so much to Protecting Our Waters for these precious three minutes.


Of all the watershed moments galvanizing the Anti-Fracking Movement in Pennsylvania—Dimock, the making of Gasland, the compressor station blowouts, the West Wyoming win against UGI, Shale Gas Outrage I—among the most significant is the invited occupation of Riverdale where for 13 days—beginning in a vigil conducted by the Reverend Leah Schade on May 31st, and ending in a raid by the Pennsylvania State Police on June 12th—between 20-50 activists from Occupy Well Street, Earth First!, Occupy Wall Street, Protecting Our Waters, The Responsible Drilling Alliance,  the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, Shaleshock, and Raging Chicken Press, along with folks from churches, mosques, synagogues, universities, public schools, factories, and retirements joined hands to defend what was—until Aqua America bought the land from Skip Leonard—a mobile HOME community.

Hands Across Riverdale became the rallying cry on the ground, in the press, and in cyberspace uniting activists and residents in the defense of this community of 32 working class families and pensioners in resistance to Aqua America/PVR’S plan to construct a 3 million gallon per day water withdrawal for fracking operations near Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. A plan approved by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission March 15th for the sale of the property, and June 7th for the construction of the transmission lines—both SRBC meetings nearly shut down by the OUTRAGED presence of nonviolent but righteous protesters. What began as a scattering of tents and sleeping bags amidst mobile homes—some occupied, some abandoned—quickly grew into one of the most vibrant democratically organized communities of resistance of which I have ever had the fortune to be a part. Among the residents Deb Eck and Kevin June deserve particular praise for their courage, their foresight, and their clear message that Riverdale was a community, that many residents owned their homes, that corporate interest is not an entitlement to eviction, and that you can’t simply bribe people out of their houses—especially when you insult them with an offer that makes it impossible for them to become anything but homeless.

No industry better illustrates than does the fracking industry and its multiplying associates the intimate and unbreakable connection between environmental sustainability and social justice.  Water withdrawals, demolition companies, trucking corporations, sand operations, chemical suppliers, departments of environmental protection, river basin commissions, and state governments promise jobs—but at the steep cost of our health, our property values, our communities, and even our LIVES. No moment in Pennsylvania history illustrates this more clearly than does Riverdale where the key factor determining site choice was the easy acquisition from a dollar-eyed seller of Susquehanna river-front property sitting right underneath the feet of people too economically vulnerable to put up a fight. But Aqua America was terribly wrong. June 1st saw the first round of barricade construction, responsibility distribution, community building, food preparation, and decision-making—every aspect of which included activists and residents united in the protection of the park. So surprised was Aqua America that by June 2nd, a security troll from Range Resources—contracted to build the site’s transmission lines—had already been dispatched to assess, take pictures, and intimidate the occupiers and the residents. His “visit,” however, only clarified our resolve and exemplified our purpose: To keep Aqua America out for as long as we could, at least until the Goliath Water Destroyer offered an honorable compensation to the residents to leave, and by far the better course—forever.

The invited occupation of Riverdale exemplifies the absolute best of what just OUTRAGE against the SHALE GAS INDUSTRY can achieve. Despite the fact that we among the activists were finally forced out of the park, it took a private security force (Huffmaster Crisis Response) at Aqua America expense, a volunteer fire company deployed to ends unbefitting their charge, the state police, and a final plea from Deb Eck for the sake of preserving our safety to end the 13 days Aqua America was not allowed to rape the Susquehanna, 13 days Range Resources was not allowed to despoil ground where people lived, kids played, old folks walked, 13 days where the Susquehanna River could be left to the PEOPLE of the Commonwealth, 13 days where a democratic community of just resistance to genocidal profiteering WON. 

Deb Eck and Kevin June, among others, can’t talk. They’re bound by a gag order—the nondisclosure agreement they’re lawyers brokered so that they could move—that is, be left other than homeless. But I can talk, and so can the other activists who have been changed forever by this experience. Deirdre Lalley—one of the principle organizers without whom Riverdale could not have happened—can talk. Alex Lotorto—a brave labor and environmental activist—can talk. Kelly Finan, fellow writer, photographer and courageous activist—can talk. Dean Marshall, one of the founding members of Occupy Well Street, can talk—and there are so many others.

We are talking. We are screaming. We are OUTRAGED. Riverdale epitomizes why the anti-fracking movement must keep squarely within its sites not only a river raped, ground destroyed, and air polluted, but the people most likely to be harmed by an industry for whom the profits of a very few outweigh the lives, health, and welfare of the very many.


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  1. This story shines light on the cruel and careless juggernaut that is fueled by corporate greed. Aqua America, Range Resources and Skippy Leonard are examples of just how low some will sink for profit. What sets this saga apart is the fact it was a mass extinction of an entire Community for a mass extraction of Frack water! Sadly, there are thousands of tales we barely will know of. These are the individual stories of eviction, imminent domain taking of property, damage to homes, pollution of wells, and gross injustices to a person here, or a single family there. All victims of a failed energy policy and evil men.

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