Local Activist Group Calls For Direct Action In Fight Against Fracking

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Preparing for an ongoing fight against powerful environmental foes in the ARTS/West basement in Athens Saturday afternoon, one guest said her participation in the direct action protest workshop stemmed from a previous anti-fracking gathering.

"I was mad as hell at police," the person who opted not to give her identification explained to the rest of the group. "I didn't like what I saw."

The group nodded and sympathized, harboring the same feelings of resentment toward law enforcement, elites and corporate energy giants. Petitions and letters had gotten them nowhere, they claimed.

For those with Appalachia Resist!, a "consensus-base collective" whose focus is geared toward curbing fracking in southeast Ohio, strategic non-violence is the next step. This is what brought the 15 of them together on Saturday.

"Direct action is action unmediated by politicians, people of power," said Cusi Bellew, an organizer of the workshop. "You're forcing (those in power) to give you a seat at the table."

Appalachia Resist! sees direct action as a way to take matters into its own hands, in a literal sense. The group's members cite historical examples of diner sit-ins within the Civil Right's Movement in carrying out contemporary protests: blocking work trucks from getting to drilling sites or, as one woman did in 2012, chaining oneself to barrels at an injection well.

"You're trying to affect the people who have the power to change what you want," Bellew said, explaining how preparations of direct action take place. "It's about doing what you think is necessary, while being non-violent to other humans."

The group's rigid commitment to non-violence is not awarded to the non-living, however.

"Property destruction can be a useful tactic," Bellew said at the workshop.

Sarah Fick, another organizer, said that it's important to train those who wish to protest how to respectfully respond to police and other opponents.

She herself hoped the workshop would help her "(be) able to stay calm and talk to police in a way that helps everyone."

Members of Appalachia Resist! did not disclose any specific plans for direct action in the coming future, only saying they hope to continue fighting to keep fracking out of this region.

"Direct action has existed for as long as oppression has existed," Bellew said.