A group of 300 anti-fracking activists met at an oil and gas lease auction in Lakewood this past May to demonstrate for blocking further hydraulic fracturing and coal mining on public land. An investigation by The Intercept recently revealed that some of those anti-fracktivists were actually undercover police, highlighting a trend of increasingly aggressive action against environmental groups.
The Bureau of Land Management, who organized the auction, reached out to Lakewood police to inform them of the “Keep it in the Ground” protest, The Intercept reported. Emails gathered through a public records request showed that police monitoring, including providing undercover to spy on the planning and protest, proceeded from there. The Bureau of Land Management funded the operation.
In emails, the police department cited “activist trainings” as reason for their surveillance. Intelligence provided by gas and oil company Anadarko warned Kevin Paletta, Lakewood’s police chief at the time, that activist group 350.org had “the goal of encouraging ‘direct action’ such as blocking, vandalism, and trespass.”
No such action occurred. Lakewood PD information officer, Steve Davis, even described the protest as “very peaceful.”
The Intercept reported that these actions demonstrate a broader trend of increasingly aggressive action toward environmental groups, and the “Keep it in the Ground” anti-fracking and coal mining movement specifically. Emails revealed extensive information gathering, similar to the type of measures undertaken in response to Keystone XL pipeline demonstrations.
During a March Congressional hearing, Neil Kornze of the Bureau of Land Management made a statement drawing parallels between anti-fracking activists and the armed militia that occupied an Oregon wildlife refuge earlier this year.
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