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Environmental Activists Occupy Interior Dept. at End of PowerShift Conference

Web ExclusiveApril 18, 2011
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Interior inside
2:15pm EDT Tim DeChristopher, activist and founder of the environmental group Peaceful Uprising, called Democracy Now! with an update from the U.S. Department of Interior, where 300-400 people are outside protesting and another 50 people are inside and refusing to leave. The march comes at the end of the four-day PowerShift conference in D.C., where 10,000 activists gathered to demand a clean energy future, targeting the Dept. of the Interior for green-lighting mountaintop “coal” removal mining, oil drilling, and now massive new coal development in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

DeChristopher was charged in December 2008 with infiltrating a public auction and disrupting the Bush administration’s last-minute move to auction off oil and gas exploitation rights on vast swaths of federal land.

Click to listen to his report on the occupation.

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: This is Tim DeChristopher. I’m right outside of the Department of the Interior building in Washington, D.C. There’s about 400 people, 300 people maybe, on the steps of the building, and then at least another 50 or so people inside the building that have locked arms. And the police have kind of given their final warning and locked the doors of the building and have said that they’re going to arrest the 50 people that are inside.

This was at the very end of the PowerShift conference this weekend, where there were 10,000 young people in Washington, D.C., to demand a clean energy future. And this was the kind of the culmination of that, targeting the Department of the Interior, who green-lights mountaintop removal. They green-light deepwater oil drilling and helped cause the Gulf oil spill. And now they’re green-lighting massive new coal development in Wyoming in the Powder River Basin. And the young people inside have said that they have had enough of that, and they don’t have the corporate campaign contributions to battle in other ways against the fossil fuel industry, but they have the commitment to take a stand here. And so, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

RENÉE FELTZ: What’s the reaction from onlookers in the building?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: I think people were surprised. There wasn’t much of a presence here when we got here. This was a spontaneous march that split off from a larger march from the PowerShift conference.

RENÉE FELTZ: Can you tell me briefly what is PowerShift and what’s taken place at the conference and who’s represented there?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: PowerShift is a youth climate conference. There were about 10,000 students here all weekend long who were organizing trainings, workshops, different speakers. There was a march today that went to the Chamber of Commerce building. It went to the BP headquarters. And now they’re here at the Department of the Interior taking a stand.

RENÉE FELTZ: And Tim, you have a history with some of this. Are you — what’s your plan for the direct action today?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Yes. Two years ago, at the very end of the Bush administration, because of the collusion between the fossil fuel industry and the Department of the Interior, they were having an illegitimate oil auction in Utah, and I attended that auction and ended up disrupting it by outbidding all the oil companies. And for that, I was prosecuted with a couple of felonies and convicted of those last month, and I go to sentencing on that on June 23rd.

RENÉE FELTZ: And what do you face, in terms of the sentence?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: The maximum would be 10 years, but more likely it would be somewhere around two or three years.

RENÉE FELTZ: Any closing thoughts, Tim, about what’s next with this direct action? Do you see the police officers moving in? And what do you think is going to happen next?

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: The police have brought up a bus, and they’ve given their final warning and locked the doors of the building. So it does look like they’re going to arrest everyone that’s inside.

RENÉE FELTZ: Alright. Thanks, Tim, for the update.

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Yeah, thank you.

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