Houston Protesters Give Newt The Texas Boot
Marge Hanselman, Conservation Chair, Houston Group
It all started innocently enough. Newt Gingrich was coming to town for a fund-raising lunch hosted by our own Republican Rep. Tom DeLay. For years, we had been fretting about the anti-environmental direction these two men were taking in Congress. Here was a chance to show our concern -- by staging a rally!
We decided that if we could get commitments from 25 Sierra Club members at our January general meeting, we would proceed. After months of letter-writing, e-mail and fax communiques, we would take our message to the streets. We had just one week to pull the rally together.
Word spread fast. People at our meeting and respondents to an initial e-mail alert suggested other groups who would be interested. We thought 50 protesters would send a stronger message than 25. Pessimists said it couldn't be done in conservative Houston, but by word of mouth, news of the rally spread and spread. After all, we all drink the same water and breathe the same air! Soon we had personally contacted at least 35 groups, all of which promised to send in the troops. Of course, we had heard that before.
The day before the rally dawned, skeptics warned us that if fewer than 20 participants showed up, we should flee to the nearest intersection rather than appear like a group of stragglers. By the weekend, we heard rumors that our brochures were being passed out at the Martin Luther King Day parade. Our phones rang off the hook. Fax machines hummed. But still we were cautious. We heard that a counter-protest from the opposition was forming. What if a fight broke out? We got advice from the police, the ACLU, the Texas State University law school. We stayed up late making banners and signs. What if no one came?
Finally, it was rally day. What should we wear? Should we look dignified? Dress for success? Wear our message-emblazoned T-shirts? Would the press condemn us as environmental extremists? Would we be arrested? Would it rain? Would we find parking? Would the paint dry on the banners? Did we have our message down pat?
There was no need for all this worry. Ten minutes into the rally, we counted 342 chanting, friendly folks of every persuasion lining the barricades at W. Alabama Street in front of the Westin Galleria. We sang "America" and "This Land is Your Land;" and we chanted "Dirty Water, Dirty Air, Tom DeLay Doesn't Care" and "Give Newt the Texas Boot!"
The Illusa, a women's drum corps, kept us chanting on beat and marching in place. Even the police horses strutted! The TV cameras and radio tape players rolled and we had fun. Fun at a protest rally? Absolutely.
This is a big year in Washington -- and our protest showed that the grassroots is paying attention. Our message was heard and seen on four television stations, the Houston Chronicle, NPR's All Things Considered, and three other radio stations. More than anything, this rally proved that we are not alone!
For more information: Contact Marge Hanselman at (713) 666-7494.
Utah Activists' Dole Showdown
When Senate Majority Leader and Presidential candidate Bob Dole went to Salt Lake City in January for a $1000-a-plate fundraiser, he got quite a reception -- but not the one he would have preferred. Dole was met at the door by a chanting, sign-waving crowd of angry citizens.
The crowd included members of the Utah Wilderness Coalition, including Sierra Club activists, many fresh from a weekend of getting reacquainted with Utah's redrock canyon country. The wilderness activists were there to show their support for H.R. 1500, the citizens' proposal for 5.7 million acres of wilderness in Utah's redrock canyonlands. They also protested the Utah delegation's sham wilderness bill -- H.R. 1745 and S. 884 -- which would nominally protect 1.2 million acres of Utah wilderness and open millions more to development. Staff from the local Veterans Administration office joined the crowd to show their displeasure with Dole.
Two TV stations covered the demonstration, participants reported, with the CBS affiliate getting good shots of giant "5.7 Wild Utah" signs and the crowd --- many of them sporting "5.7 Wild" caps -- chanting, "We will remember in November!" and "5.7, not an acre less, save our redrock wilderness!"
For more information: Contact Lawson LeGate, regional representative in the Sierra Club's Utah field office, at (801) 467-9296.
Population Program Wins National Award
Selected from a pool of over 1600 nominees, the Sierra Club's Project Educate was among 25 winners of the 1995 Renew America national award in February in Washington, D.C. The annual award is sponsored by the National Awards Council for Environmental Sustainability, and given to environmental programs throughout the U.S. that demonstrate leadership and excellence in the field.
A joint effort of a Sierra Club population committee and a Sonoma County, Calif., Zero Population Growth chapter, the project's goal is to ensure that public school teachers have the materials and training to effectively present to their students the environmental and social implications of continued world population growth. The coalition's trained volunteers make presentations to middle school teachers and provide followup materials, including a thorough course outline, a short video and recommended classroom activities.
"We wanted this to be a self-perpetuating program," said Lori Goss Lawson, co-chair of Redwood chapter population committee. "We've already reached over 2,000 students -- and by training teachers, we hope to continue to reach thousands of new students every year."
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