The Green Army, a group representing environmental and social justice organizations led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, met on the steps of the state capitol for a rally preceding the start of Louisiana's legislative session which begins today. Their demonstration, called a “Water Festival,” was a cry to protect Louisiana's water.
Crowd begins to gather at a 'Green Army' event in front of the State Capitol ©2014 Julie Dermansky
The Green Army will make their voices heard this session. They plan to stop bills they believe stand in the way of preserving Louisiana's disappearing coast, including bills that would kill the lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East that would require 97 oil and gas companies to pay for their share of the damage the industry has done to the coast.
Governor Bobby Jindal has actively tried to derail the lawsuit and is backing legislation that would undermine the levee board. John Barry, a former board member who co-authored the lawsuit, pointed out that the governor has no business standing in the way of a suit already accepted by the courts.
The Green Army on the stairs of the State Capitol ©2014 Julie Dermansky
State Sen. Robert Adley is also pushing back against the lawsuit. His photo graced signs held by some of the activists at the rally, naming him the face of big oil. General Honore told the crowd, laws are needed to prevent politicians with conflicts of interest like Senator Adley from having a say in industry related matters. Adley is a former head of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association and has taken tens of thousands of dollars in campaign conributions from the industry.
Green Army member with photo of Senator Robert Adley, naming him the face of big oil ©2014 Julie Dermansky
Jenna DeBoisbla, representative of 350's New Orleans chapter, in front of the State Capitol ©2014 Julie Dermansky
Residents from Bayou Corne, Louisiana, attended the rally. They have been under mandatory evacuation since a vast sinkhole endangering their neighborhood opened due to industrial malfeasance. Michael Schaff and Carla Alleman shared first-hand stories about how Louisiana's industry-friendly laws have destroyed their community. They thanked Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré who answered their plea for help last year. Their request inspired Honore to start the Green Army, whose goal is making the government work for the people, not industry.
People with signs addressing water issues in a crowd at the Louisiana State Capitol ©2014 Julie Dermansky
In an editorial published by the Advocate, Honore wrote, “Our lack of regulation is so senseless that Louisiana does not even consider oil field wastes as hazardous to our supply of water. While industry provides jobs and business to our state, those jobs and businesses can’t be sustained in the coming decades if we destroy our supply of safe water. And if we continue to be the toxic dump for other states, we won’t be able to attract good jobs and new enterprises to our state.”
Retired U.S. Army General Russell L. Honore speaks in front of the State Capitol at the Green Army event ©2014 Julie Dermansky
Activists at the Water Festival, a 'Green Army' event. ©2014 Julie Dermansky
Anne Rolfes, head of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, spoke words of encouragement to the hundred-plus people gathered:
“Our governor, our legislators, are grievously wrong today. Because they blindly support the oil industry, and they have forgotten about 'we the people'. But we are here to fix that. We can fix that – and how do I know? Because we are here together. Today is just the beginning – and we shall fight and we shall win. “
Anne Rolfes head of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade speaks in front of the State Capitol at the Water Festival ©2014 Julie Dermansky
John Barry, the last speaker at the rally, told the audience “We want the oil companies to keep the work, obey their word and take responsibilities for their actions.”
The Green Army believes there is no time to waste because the coast is eroding at an alarming rate. “If you broke it, you fix it” has become the Green Army's rally cry. They are calling for civic engagement and enthusiasm for political and environmental change in Louisiana, before it is too late.
Honore wrote, “Our concern now is we've got to protect our water and we need better laws to protect it. The people of Louisiana can only look a few weeks ago to West Virginia and see what happened, and what happened in West Virginia can happen here in Louisiana, and it has happened.”
Woman dressed as a pelican at the Water Festival ©2014 Julie Dermansky
Members of the Green Army at the Louisiana State Capitol ©2014 Julie Dermansky
People with signs addressing water issues at the Water Festival, a 'Green Army' event ©2014 Julie Dermansky
People with signs addressing water issues in Louisiana in front of the State Capitol ©2014 Julie Dermansky