#KeepItInTheGround and the “Better Call Saul” School of Protesting

by Aaron Johnson, Manager of Communications on February 11, 2016 - 2:37pm

Keep It In The Ground BLM LakewoodBetter Call Saul, the fictional TV series about a sleazeball lawyer, is apparently being confused as a tutorial by Keep–It-in-the-Ground protesters. Their stunts at recent anti-oil and natural gas protests could be mistaken for clips from the show’s cutting room floor.

Faked Car Accident

Just yesterday, E&E News published a story exposing how protesters faked being hit by an SUV at the lease auction at the Colorado Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office last November. According to the story, as the auctioneer tried exiting the parking lot, which was blocked by protesters, one of the activists took a dive in front of his vehicle. The local police concluded the whole thing was staged and there was no criminal wrong doing. Watch the video to judge for yourself. If you squint you may even Saul Goodman in the background.

The obviously staged “accident” and police report exonerating the driver didn’t stop the environmental groups from trying to claim victimhood. Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to BLM demanding it investigate the matter further. The environmental group accused the driver of retaliating against their protest. They posted the letter on social media to get publicity among their followers and to further enflame the situation.

Keep It In The Ground accident

Keep It In The Ground accident

One would think the groups would learn to better manage their reputation and not risk losing what little credibility they have. But their actions today show otherwise.

Despite the fact that BLM canceled today’s lease sale, the Keep-It-in-the-Ground groups insisted on staging another protest. That’s right. They were protesting nothing. There are two reasons why this was a poor decision.

Disregard for Security

Keep it in the Ground police patrolFirst, and most seriously, BLM offices nationwide were on high security alert. Events surrounding the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and last night’s arrest of infamous rancher Cliven Bundy have all BLM locations on edge. The Colorado BLM was on lockdown today. They are noticeably concerned and watchful of the surrounding area.

Fortunately, the patrol officer on site only had to monitor about 15 protesters, and they were mostly leaders from national groups like RainForest Action Network, Food and Water Watch, WildEarth Guardians and Center for Biological Diversity. There was a conspicuous absence of local community involvement.

Lack of Serious Engagement

Second, there is already a process to formerly protest leases on public lands. It’s established federal policy and gives all parties a fair chance to have their voices heard without requiring any phony publicity stunts.

But of the various groups represented at today’s protest, only two participated in that process. It’s much more fun to wave protest banners and shout rehearsed chants than to actually provide reasoned arguments. Since BLM routinely pulls lease parcels from sales based on formal protests, it’s also a much more effective process.

Clearly, Food and Water Watch, RainForest Action Network and 350 Colorado care more about publicity stunts they can use for social media and fundraising emails than engaging in the legitimate process.

The Keep-It-in-the-Ground movement is a priority for environmental groups in 2016. Organizers are seriously committed to shutting down oil and natural gas production on multiple-use federal lands. They’re pressuring the president to use the moratorium on coal leases as precedent.

But it’s clear from their actions they have no scruples. They’re willing to stage stunts and have little regard for meaningful engagement on policy issues. When it comes to national energy policy, they’re as credible as a TV con man. 

Keep It In The Ground protesters

Keep It In The Ground Jeremy Nichols

 Keep It In The Ground scarf

 Keep It In The Ground accident