A protest against fracking ended with an arrest on Tuesday as dozens of protesters stormed through the Siena Hotel in Reno looking to interrupt a Bureau of Land Management sale of oil and gas. Our contributor from ThisisReno Bob Conrad reports.
Protestors chanted while holding signs saying "Keep it in the ground" and "Frack free NV." There were even performance artists, clad in black bodysuits, who staged a "die-in" in the entryway of the hotel.
Bob Fulkerson with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada was arrested for trespassing during the protest and another person was cited as well. That's according to Reno Police.
Ruth Breech of Rainforest Action Network helped organize the rally against the sale, which protesters say would allow fracking on Nevada's public lands.
"The hotel security was very adamant that this was private property and immediately violently detained one of our leaders," Breech recounted, "threw him to the ground (and) cut his chin open."
She says another issue with the event is that nobody was actually in the auction room at the advertised time.
"It's really unclear whether the auction has been canceled," Breech said, "whether it's moved to another room, and as a federal agency, there's a huge transparency issue here."
Chris Rose is with the BLM and says they moved the sale once they heard about the commotion.
"We actually planned for potential disruptions based on past sales and things that have happened in other states, so when the protest occurred we went to our plan B and moved the bidders and BLM staff to an alternative room and conducted the sale there," he explained. "If, like in the past, if the protestors had come in and observed the sale and not been disruptive, we would've conducted the sale with public viewing."
The federal agency is mandated by law to hold these auctions quarterly. Rose says it's a misconception that oil and gas sales will automatically end up leading to fracking on Nevada public lands:
"When we lease land in sales like this that's strictly all it is: the land is being leased. Once a company comes back, if they win the auction, they have the right to apply for exploration and development, so just because a company purchases the land at a lease sale, it doesn't mean a drill rig is going to show up the next day."
He adds that fracking operations must ultimately be approved by the state.