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Battle of the SUV: Conservation of National Security

By Jason E. Lippert

In the true spirit of the First Amendment (most notably the freedoms of speech and assembly), protestors convened at a local Washington, D.C. Exxon service station. Their purpose? A counter-demonstration against a conglomeration of public interest groups – including U.S. PIRG, Greenpeace, and the Alaska Wilderness League – calling themselves the Stop Exxon-Mobil Alliance.

The Alliance, seeking to emulate the annual international event known as "Action Against Exxon-Mobil Day," converged at an ExxonMobil service station on Capitol Hill. This event was "one of more than 15 actions held across the country…"

The counter-demonstration, which outnumbered the Alliance more than 2-to-1, was spearheaded by the American Conservative Union.

Truly, the two groups together created quite the festive event, which kicked off with a counter-demonstrator (who just happened to be sporting a star-spangled top hat) leading the crowd in a spirited rendition of God Bless America. Car horns honked as drivers and passengers cheered to support the counter-protestors. SUVs with American flags draped over their hoods and waving from their radio antennas pulled into the service station. Car-pooling passengers, each carrying a large, brightly colored sign displaying support for the counter-demonstration, poured out of trucks, mini-vans, and SUVs, many SUVs.

One counter-demonstrator wielded a megaphone and called out chants, echoed by the rest of the group. "WE LIKE TRUCKS, WE LIKE TRUCKS…" was just one of many cheers.

Saddam Hussein was there…well not really, but a costumed figure depicting him was. "Saddam" brandished a sign, flashy with enormous red, blue, and green lettering stating "DON’T DRILL ANWR, I NEED THE $$$" on one side and "I HATE AMERICA, I LOVE GREENPEACE" on the other.

Alongside "Saddam" stood a costumed Tiger (the Exxon-Mobil mascot) with a sign proudly announcing, "SUVs are GREEEAT!" Other signs that were massed among the more than 40 circling "pro-SUV" demonstrators read: "MY CAR, MY CHOICE" and "SUVs HELP TO PROTECT MY CHILDREN."

A group handed out flyers with a picture of Saddam Hussein on one half and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle on the other, posing and answering the question: "Why is America buying 725,000 barrels of oil a day from this man?–Because this man won’t let America drill for oil at home." The flyer continued to debate the issue of ANWR and its energy independence potential for the United States.

More shouts came. This time it was to drown out the Greenpeace protestors’ chant of "We Love Caribou." "Saddam" and the gang enthusiastically retorted with "WE LOVE AMERICA, WE SUPPORT AMERICANS."

A hand full of protestors from the PIRG/Greenpeace "anti-SUV" side were in attendance. They stood, huddled together on the corner of the intersection, barely audible with melodic, almost iambic pentameter chants of "Global warming is a fact." This, however, was disputed by someone of the "opposition" who held a sign stating "GREENPEACE 99% FACT-FREE" on one side and "PIRG 99% FACT-FREE" on the reverse.

Like most environmentalist groups, Greenpeace opposes drilling in ANWR and stubbornly ignores reports that show minimal risk, particularly in light of new, high-tech drilling methods. As the Center for Individual Freedom and others have repeatedly stated, ANWR has the potential of giving the United States 30 years worth of energy, alleviating some of the pressure that dependence on OPEC has created.

Even though there was no real threat of violence from the crowd, the demonstration was monitored by the Washington, D.C. Metro Police. Alongside the police were a handful local television, radio, and print reporters.

As the crowd slowly simmered down to more of a social gathering than a counter-demonstration, the PIRG/Greenpeace protestors had disappeared. Perhaps they had a "tanker-to-spray-paint" appointment at noon.

[Posted June 14, 2002]

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