NEW ORLEANS – Protesters opposed to drilling in the Gulf of Mexico attempted to disrupt an oil and gas lease sale Wednesday, chanting and waving signs as government officials read bids from companies for the right to explore and develop fossil fuels offshore.
According to several online reports, about 150 protesters held signs that said “No new leases” or “No Drill, No Spill,” and marched into the room in the New Orleans Mercedes-Benz Superdome where the sale was being held.
As a government official read aloud the bids from a microphone, the protesters heckled attendees and tried to drown out the voices of those who were trying to read out the results of the auction. The audience of mostly oil and gas company employees and executives looked on, sometimes pulling out their phones to take videos or photos of the protesters.
The demonstrators were calling for an end to leasing of public lands for oil, gas and coal development, part of a nationwide movement that has targeted similar government auctions around the country in recent months.
Janice Schneider, assistant secretary at the Department of Interior, said that the protesters did not hold up the sale, and that she had no concerns about the demonstrations.
According to an AP report, many industry executives and employees who were in the audience said the protesters had the right to demonstrate, but also said they did not think many had any idea of how intertwined oil and gas use is with people’s everyday lives.
Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, questioned why the protesters were not kept farther away from the sale, instead of being allowed to shout inches from where the bids were being read. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are directly tied to the oil and gas industry, he said, and he questioned how the protesters could both oppose oil and gas development while using cars or planes to get to the lease sale meeting.