Saturday, October 22, 2011

About 150 protest outside environmental journalism conference

Some said they felt welcomed by the Society of Environmental Journalists, others felt marginalized by the organization.

More than 100 protestors for varying causes held signs, beat drums and chanted Saturday at a "Rally for the Environment" in a park outside the International Hotel in Miami, site of SEJ's national conference.

Ana Campos of Fort Lauderdale described herself as one of the "culprits" who organized the event, involving more than 40 groups in South Florida along with the Miami version of Occupy Wall Street.

She said the groups were welcomed by SEJ and felt they were "preaching to the choir."

"We are celebrating them (SEJ)," Campos said. "We are the ones who couldn't afford it (to participate in the conference) so we infiltrated their conference. And we were greeted with applause and hugs and thumbs up."

While SEJ conference participants boarded buses for three-hour mini-tours of environmental sites, the rally participants held signs protesting a variety of issues including Monsanto Co. and genetically-modified foods, Florida Power & Light Co. for its proposed nuclear power plant expansion at Turkey Point and Florida Gov. Rick Scott for his environmental policies.

Liam Scheff, an independent journalist who has written for independent newspapers in Boston and New York and for, said he felt marginalized because so few SEJ members came over to visit the rally.

"They should have walked over across the street -- that's all," Sheff said. While he said only two to four came over, he pointed out "a couple of hundred people got on those (tour) buses."

"I guess I just would have expected more of them to care," Sheff said. "I guess if we had pictures of Paris Hilton or what's her name -- Demi Moore -- and Ashton Kutcher, we would have more (coverage)."

Matthew Schwartz held a sign saying, "No FPL power plant in panther habitat" -- a reference to what he says is a possible Florida Power & Light Co. natural gas power plant in Hendry County.

What was different about Schwartz was that he also was on the SEJ conference agenda. As executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association, he spoke Friday during the "Florida's Iconic Critters" panel.

He said Saturday that south Florida's landscape, with its biodiversity and threatened species, is a national treasure that deserves the attention of a broader audience.

"This (protest) is sending a message in a different way," Schwartz said. "Hopefully we will get some good press coverage about this."


Anonymous said...

Hi Bruce!

Thank you for this article.

As a primary organizer, I witnessed well over 100 journalists that attended the SEJ Conference come out and show appreciation.

There was even a tour delay because so many had walked over to join us and were interviewing the crowd. one reporter from Tampa told me she along with several others wer on buses and exited them just to join us and interview us.

I was deeply moved by the experience and encouraged by the powerful message our group(s)sent. Not only was it well received it, I hope that it was heard and generates interest and coverage on the critical issues we are dealing with here in South Florida.

Thank you for writing this article.

Ana Campos

Bruce Ritchie said...

Thanks for the additional information Ana, and thanks for reading the article. This article will probably be cross-posted on the SEJ blog and the Daily Planet published by the University of Miami.

Stephanie McMillan said...

Great article -- thanks for writing it! As another person who both spoke in the conference and participated in the rally, I want to concur with Ana -- many of the journalists came across the street to talk with those at the rally (it wasn't really a "protest" but more of a rally motivated by the desire to connect with journalists and present local issues). Several even crossed the police tape to come over to the side of the activists.

I wonder if you could include that in future versions of your article posted elsewhere, so it doesn't seem as though all the activists saw the journalists in a negative light? I found many to be very friendly to the local activists and interested in the issues.

All best,

Ana Campos said...

As the primary organizer, I am happy to report that well over 100 journalists that attended the SEJ Conference come out and showed appreciation for the message! I am deeply appreciative of their willingness to stop what they were doing to join us and interview us. To be clear this was not a protest, it was a rally for the environment. They delayed their 'eco-tours' because so many journalists had joined us. One reporter from Tampa told me she along with several others were on buses and exited them just to join us and interview us.

It was inspiring and uplifting to have been joined by well over 100 journalists. I was deeply moved by the experience and encouraged by the powerful message our groups sent and the heartfelt embrace by all the journalists at the SEJ conference..

I would go so far as to request a correction. It was NOT a protest It was a Rally for the Environment and held to capture the attention of the journalists who have dedicated their lives to saving the environment.

Here is the event page that I created. Nowhere do you see the words protest..

Liam failed to disclose to you Bruce that he arrived at the end of the event and did not realize we were swarmed and embraced by over 100 reporters.

Trish said...

Thank you Bruce! As one of the Primary organizers of this rally, I'd like to thank 'the many' journalists that crossed the line and the news crew's that came out to support. In fact, quite a few chose to miss their scheduled tours just to talk with us about our critical issues in South Florida: Primate Products/Smash HLS, FPL's proposed Nuclear Reactor's at Turkey Point, Powerlines & the new Scripps building in the Everglades to name a few. While I agree that as a whole, I'd like to see more truth/action in writing/reporting on the 'biotech bully', "Monsanto" (and a few other subject matter's), overall, I must say, that I felt a great deal of unity, support and solidarity, watching Left & the Right, Occupy Miami and Activists, Media and Environmentalists, Musicians and Families alike, all joining hands for this important message of peace & action. Last, I 'd like to say that I am thrilled, especially over the last few years with the rising level of activism & outreach in our communities on these important issues --I encourage more to stand-up and I am thankful for the support of our journalists that are helping to give us a stronger voice. Thank you! Trish

Jeff Burnside said...

Good hustle, Bruce. I saw you out there gathering interviews from those rallying as well as fellow journalists. As co-chair of the SEJ conference, I can tell you that many, many reporters were well aware of the rally whether or not they came over to the police line. I must say that as journalists they were more likely applauding the hutzpah of the people for properly utilizing the conference to reach the masses.

Malagodi said...

A journalist told me that s/he "...was skyped in to an SEJ panel that started late because so many journalists were at the protest…"

Thanks organizers! Good Job.