Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) was supposed to meet this Monday to vote on regulations that would allow hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River Basin. Swarthmore’s anti-hydro-fracking group, Swat Frack Action, as well as interested students, were scheduled to attend a rally protesting the regulations: this meeting has officially been cancelled. According to Swat Frack Action organizer Morgan Bartz ‘14, the deciding factor in the meeting’s cancellation was the fact that Governor Jack Markell of Delaware publicly announced that he would vote against the regulations, and that the influx of protesting callers may have been a factor in his decision.
The commission would have consisted of Markell, Governor Andrew Cuomo (NY), Governor Tom Corbett (PA), Governor Chris Christie (NJ), and a representative from the Obama Administration. Since Cuomo had already said he would vote no and Corbett and Christie were expected to vote yes, the deciding vote was left in the hands of the Obama Administration. The meeting was thus called off.
Bartz said that it makes sense for the Obama Administration to act this way. “Obama can’t make big decisions right now; he’d be risking the presidential election,” she said. Bartz pointed out that Obama is realizing that he has been losing his voter base, and that any decision on the Delaware River Basin regulations, though they have not been postponed to a set date, will probably not take place until after the next election.
According to Swat Frack Action member Pat Walsh, who participated in the conference call, said the non-violent direct action was to take the form of a “People’s Flood.” The first part, the “rain,” would include the testimonies of people who have to live near fracking sites and deal with their effects (such as traffic, air pollution and non-potable water). During the meeting, the participants would utilize the Occupy-style “people’s mic,” where one person would read the testimony and every few words, the crowd repeats.
“This would create a non-stop wall of sound,” Walsh said. “The people running the meeting wouldn’t be able to break in and tell them to stop.”
The second part of the action, the “flood,” would have been the civil disobedience component. Anyone willing to participate would wear a blue armband and “flood” the stage in groups of 50, with a facilitator for each group. The police were expected to remove people from the stage, at which point 50 more people would approach the stage, showing the presence of those against the regulations.
“[Non-violent direct action] is about demonstrating the power of having people there, and the fact that our voices and bodies make a statement,” Walsh said. “It’s completely non-confrontational.”
A more general training in non-violent direct action took place on Sunday. There may also be a rally in Trenton on Monday simply to show support for the cause. Lang Resource Center-provided Septa tickets were available to individuals interested in attending, but Swat Frack Action as a group did not attend.