Earlier today I headed down to the “Energy Citizens’ Rally” that Sean mentioned yesterday. The American Petroleum Institute has put together multistate campaign against climate change legislation and a new clean energy policy. API has also hired local oil industry lobbyists to organize rallies by bussing in employees from local oil and gas companies and their contractors. St. Louis’ rally was no different – organizer Ryan Rowden is a registered lobbyist for the Missouri Petroleum Council.
I arrived at approximately 11:45 – doors were supposed to open at 11:30. Although I imagined that meant the program wouldn’t start until sometime after noon, FreedomWorks promised free hamburgers and hot dogs to attendees, and I wasn’t about to pass that up. But when I walked into the hotel (yes, the “grassroots” rally was held in a hotel ballroom) I didn’t see anyone at all. A quick walk through the main floor of the hotel revealed nothing, but then I noticed a herd of people in matching yellow shirts pouring through a side door, where helpful staffers were directing them up a set of stairs. I pushed past them outside, and sure enough, two busloads of employees with yellow “I’m an Energy Citizen” T-shirts in their hands or worn over their work clothes were emptying onto the street.
I took this video clip, attempting to look like a tourist trying to get past the buses to film the Arch and the Old Courthouse. Notice the yellow shirts in hand, the staffers directing people to go in and take the escalator.
Unfortunately, one of the staffers noticed me filming and notified me that he had told security what I was doing and that I would not be allowed into the building because I seemed like I wanted to disrupt the rally. I protested that I was just curious about what was going on, but he repeated that I would not be allowed in. I suppose the only images they want coming out of these rallies are tightly controlled interviews with oil and coal industry workers after a captive propaganda session.
Thus ended my foray into the bizarre world of hotel ballroom astroturf rallies with energy employees and their bosses. And I didn’t even get a hamburger.