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Quick and Dirty

Fueling the Debate

By Daniel Haggerty | Posted 7/5/2006

When freedom of speech results in getting pelted with small objects, you know youíve touched a nerve. Thatís exactly what happened June 28 during MoveOnís "big oil" rush-hour rally at the corner of Falls Road and Cold Spring Lane. According to the press release, the event was part of a national day of protest staged by the political action committee to "call on Congress to stop taking campaign money from big oil." Similar protests were expected to occur in more than 250 locations nationwide.

The site of the event was both practical and symbolic. In addition to being one of the busier intersections in the city, there are four gas stations within a couple hundred yards of one another there: Sunoco, Crown, Exxon, and Carroll Fuel. The locale is also accessible by both light rail and bus, making it easily accessible for the 39 volunteers who had signed up to participate in the event.

The protesters, about 15 strong in the early stages of the protest, waved signs that read oil money corrupts congress and oil corrupts environment, highlighting two of the groupís primary issues. A couple of Exxon service station employees apparently took particular offense to the gathering and threw several small objects at the group. The two grown men even broke into their Fourth of July stash and set off a few firecrackers.

According to the press release, MoveOn wants to draw attention to the fact that "since 1990, big oil has given more than $190 million to members of Congressó75 percent of which ($142,635,314) has gone to Republicans."

Alan Shapiro, a Baltimore resident and a local MoveOn organizer, says "oil is the origin of a whole mess of problems," including "environmental problems as a result of burning the stuff." Shapiro, a former cabinetmaker, says big oil has "bought Congress entirely," and he largely blames the Bush administration for that, noting: "He is oil."

Patti Kinlock, another local MoveOn volunteer who took part in the protest, says she wants to "get the influence of oil money out of politics" and draw attention to the nationís need to "generate renewable sources of energy" and "end our addiction to oil."

A motorist passing by the protest summarized the frustrations felt by countless drivers across the country when he screamed "I put 60 bucks in last night, and now Iím on a quarter tank!"

Ironically, the complaint came from the window of an SUV.

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