Students stage silent demonstration against fracking

Lorenz Angelo Gonzales/Staff

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A human oil spill spread across Dwinelle Plaza on Monday — a silent demonstration against fracking that is the first in a series of events to kick-start Earth Week 2014.

The day after the four-year anniversary of the BP oil spill, about 20 students, clad entirely in black, circled and sprawled around a miniature wooden oil rig covered with protest signs. Protesters wanted to illustrate the environmental effects of fracking by using human bodies as symbols of the devastation.

“An oil spill is a very visible and recognizable example of the corruption and destruction wrought by the fossil fuel industry,” said Jake Soiffer, a freshman and an actions coordinator at Fossil Free Cal, in an email. “The details — lying on the floor, wearing all black — bring out the serious, pressing nature of the issue.”

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, involves extracting natural gas and oil by injecting water, sand and chemicals — many of them toxic — into underground shell rock.

The protest, which was planned and sponsored by Students Against Fracking and by Fossil Free Cal, comes a month after a similar demonstration on Sproul to pressure Gov. Jerry Brown into banning fracking in California. Like last month’s protest, students Monday aimed to raise awareness of fracking — but, this time, through a symbolic display.

Suspended from the 12-foot-tall small-scale oil rig was a list of chemicals involved in fracking operations that are injected into bedrock to break it up. At the foot of the rig were students, quietly reclining on the ground.

The protest then kicked into another gear as a student protester wielded a megaphone, chanting “leave the oil in the soil” and “hey hey, ho ho, Keystone XL has to go.”

The protest is the first of many events in UC Berkeley’s annual Earth Week festival, sponsored and organized by the ASUC Sustainability Team. The week — which lasts through Sunday — is designed to spread awareness on environmental issues and is filled with events that promote discussions on ecological issues and teach what it means to lead a sustainable lifestyle.

Founded at the beginning of this semester, Students Against Fracking focuses primarily on leading an educational campaign around campus. The organization will continue to work in solidarity with Fossil Free Cal, a campus group campaigning for the UC Board of Regents to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

Kristy Drutman, a freshman and co-coordinator for Students Against Fracking, said the organization will begin to take a bigger step forward in their environmental campaign on campus by starting a petition. The petition would pressure Brown to approve a potential bill come November that would pause fracking in California to allow for further scientific research on the cost-effectiveness of fracking.

In addition, Fossil Free Cal is now looking to broaden student support, connect with local environmental groups and pass a resolution through the ASUC.


Contact Bo Kovitz at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @beau_etc.