Occupy Koch Town recently attracted about 40 organizations and more than 350 people from Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Iowa, Oregon and Washington, D.C.
We were all non-millionaires.
However, we did see pro-millionaire advocates – a dozen or so tea party and pro-Koch brothers partisans – in front of Koch Industries headquarters. The tea party and Occupy groups did not clash but engaged in polite conversation, discussing our views and opinions with respect.
We felt the media did not report on the issues the marchers represented, instead slanting their coverage to reflect the unfounded view expressed by the Koch brothers that such a public display of citizen rights to free speech was somehow illegitimate and dangerous. Little was mentioned about the action’s success, peacefully raising public consciousness about pollution and corporate influence.
Our focus on the Koch brothers as among the nation’s most dangerous polluters was well-founded. “Fight tar sands” was one sign repeated throughout the crowd. Tar-sands oil pollutes Canada and the United States on its journey to its foreign destination.
The Alberta pipeline system – which carries diluted bitumen, the same product planned for Keystone XL – has had about 16 times as many spills due to internal corrosion as the U.S. conventional oil pipeline system. Yet the safety and spill response standards used by the United States to regulate pipeline transport of bitumen are designed for conventional oil.
To make matters worse, pipeline failures are not detected by pipeline operators, and the heavy, sticky, highly corrosive and toxic crude oil is nearly impossible to clean up because the industry doesn’t know how to clean up bitumen after a spill. Its composition means that traditional cleanup techniques don’t work. For example, unlike regular oil, diluted bitumen sinks in water.
The tar-sands expansion in Canada is the largest refining and most destructive project on Earth. Koch Industries is responsible for close to 25 percent of the tar-sands crude oil that is imported into the United States. Flint Hills Resources Canada LP, a Koch Industries operation in Alberta, supplies 250,000 barrels of tar-sands oil a day to the Koch-owned Pine Bend Refinery in Minnesota, which is listed as a “high priority violator” by the Environmental Protection Agency.
We must stop the production of oil from tar sands, because tar-sands oil pipelines are not safe.
Another slogan was “clean air, clean water, clean democracy.” Over the past two years, the Koch brothers have used their personal wealth and influence to advocate against clean energy and environmental standards, workers’ rights, health care reform and public education.
Occupy and the Sierra Club worked collaboratively on Occupy Koch Town to raise the consciousness level on all these issues in the Koch brothers’ hometown.
The Kochs seem more interested in deflecting the real intent of the rally with false, or at least disingenuous, outrage over citizens demonstrating peacefully in their hometown, exercising our freedoms as American citizens. But the Kochs’ reaction was just misdirection to keep the public from focusing on their dismal environmental record and their equally dangerous efforts to undermine our freedom and democracy.