…his name is Luke Fontana, and he runs an outfit called Save Our Wetlands – which is a New Orleans-based environmental activist group which has gone ballistic over the Bayou Bridge pipeline. Fontana got himself arrested on Friday during the French Quarter Fest in New Orleans for selling umbrellas, t-shirts and lapel buttons, though he said he wasn’t selling anything but rather giving swag away to people who chose to pay him to join his organization.
Which would seem to indicate he was selling memberships to Save Our Wetlands at a table he’d set up, without having a vendor permit at the festival.
Fontana said a police officer approached around 3 p.m. on Friday. Fontana said he asked the officer if he’d like to join the organization. The officer declined, instructing Fontana to “pack up” because the French Quarter Festival was a private event where the pipeline protestor couldn’t continue his activity.
Fontana argued that he was on public property and within his rights. Furthermore, Fontana said he produced a court injunction dating from the year 2000 that allowed him to solicit members without police interference. Fontana explained that he had received the official document from a judge when the police prevented him from seeking new members outside of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival almost two decades ago.
By this time, Fontana said, a second officer had arrived. Neither would accept his document. The officers issued Fontana a summons to appear in court for his violations and insisted he leave the site. Fontana said he refused to leave, expressing his willingness to go to jail for his cause. Eventually, he said, he found himself in the midst of several police officers. Fontana, who is a professional photographer, said he photographed the arresting officers to document the incident.
Because of existing conditions including a previously dislocated shoulder, Fontana said he found the ride to jail with his hands in cuffs to be a painful experience.
“I felt like I was being tortured,” Fontana said of his discomfort during the restrained van ride, though he said he was never physically mishandled by the police. In the end he said he was deposited in a cell with other recent arrestees. He said he didn’t get home until 5 a.m. on Saturday (April 14).
Fontana, 78, has been around for a long time. They’re still talking about the lunatic speech he gave at Jesuit High School’s Career Day in 1992…
Save Our Wetlands has been basically a vexatious litigant against oil companies and the Army Corps of Engineers since 1974, and they’ve found themselves a meal ticket with Bayou Bridge.
This despite the fact Bayou Bridge is just another of hundreds of oil and gas pipelines traversing Louisiana without any added environmental risk to speak of.
The thing to understand about the Bayou Bridge screaming is it’s not really about the environment. It’s about relevance – groups like Save Our Wetlands don’t exactly produce anything which involves sustained revenue, so they’ve got to constantly ramp up the rhetoric and the antics.
Which leads to lots of fun items – like for example when environmentalist vandals in St. James Parish did a minimum of $50,000 in damage to equipment used to work on the pipeline. That was at practically the same site the environmentalists were protesting the pipeline, leading Ann Rolfes, who leads the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, another one of the rabble-rousing groups using Bayou Bridge activism as a fundraising lever, to say she’s “not surprised” at the vandalism.
Rolfes denied her group had anything to do with the equipment being damaged, because of course she did.
Following that incident, Democrat Rep. Major Thibaut of New Roads brought a bill that would add construction sites and pipelines to the state’s list of critical infrastructure and allow for a throwing of the book at people conspiring to do violence to that infastructure.
And here was the reaction from the people who By God have nothing to do with that vandalism…
By criminalizing damage to pipelines, legislators would be heading down a slippery slope of going after the people trying to protect the land and water rather than the people who destroy them, said Cherri Foytlin, leader of the L’eau Est La Vie resistance camp.
“I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, I’m just saying it’s the wrong thing to focus on,” she said.
Meg Logue, of 350 New Orleans, noted that laws already are in place against trespassing and damage to private property. She would know; she was one of three people arrested a few weeks ago for blocking a Bayou Bridge construction site in Assumption Parish.
The trio stood or sat in a construction area but did not damage any property, and Logue said she isn’t interested in doing so. Like Foytlin, she sees the problem as a one of establishing priorities.
“That’s what these pipeline companies are doing … they’re poisoning the environment. Where’s their (prison time)?” she asked.
Here’s Cherri Foytlin, by the way…
Are we accusing these people of being criminals? Well, let’s just say they’ve been less than persuasive in their conventional advocacy, and there’s a fundraising problem that comes when you don’t persuade people of your position – so to draw down funding from the left-wing foundations like Save Our Wetlands, BOLD Louisiana or the Bucket Brigade, they’re in a never-ending hustle to get attention.
That’s why last week a pair of retired public school teachers from New Orleans showed up at a construction yard in Iowa, Louisiana, near Lake Charles, dressed as crawfish and locked themselves in barrels in a vain attempt to block trucks going in and out. This isn’t exactly adult behavior, but it does get news coverage – and that’s a deliverable for the foundations which fund so much of the environmentalist movement.
People with productive lives don’t waste their time on this kind of activity. But nobody ever considered the folks wasting public resources by getting themselves arrested for causing disturbances in the name of the environment as productive.
That pipeline is getting built, by the way. It’s just costing more than it should. That’s what these people can claim as the result of what they’re doing.