Initiatives canvassers report harassment

Jeanette Pidanick (with microphone) speaks at an oil and gas protest in Thornton in May while Maria Orms (far right) listens.
Joel Dyer | Boulder Weekly

Canvassers collecting signatures to guarantee two initiatives impacting oil and gas regulations make it on the November ballot claim they have been harassed while circulating petitions in public places. Both volunteer and paid signature-gatherers for Initiatives #75 (local control) and #78 (2,500-foot setbacks) have been canvassing at public parks, ice-cream socials, in front of community centers and other public spaces throughout the state.

A press release from Yes for Health and Safety over Fracking reports incidences in Windsor, Greeley, Steamboat Springs, Loveland, Thornton, Denver and Boulder. It says canvassers have been followed by cars, petition signers have been intimidated to cross out their names and opponents have posted threats on social media.

Maria Orms and Jeanette Pidanick, co-captains for the petition drive in Adams County, have both experienced increased harassment in recent days.

Both were with a group of canvassers outside the Broomfield Community Center on Monday night where there was an Extraction Oil and Gas, LLC community meeting going on inside. Orms says a woman drove up in a hurry and told them, “Do me a favor and give them a whole story. Don’t just give them half the information.” She then preceded to stop everyone gathering signatures for Initiatives 75 and 78 until she had a chance to talk to potential signers and hand out opposing information.

“This woman, who was passing out flyers for oil and gas, she was trying to prevent a man from signing,” Pidanick adds. “She was very aggressive and literally he couldn’t sign because she was really close to them … He got through his first name but then he stopped.”

Pidanick asked the woman to stop harassing the citizen and as they stood there debating, he was able to finish signing the petition.

“This hasn’t just happened to us but it’s happening to other volunteers by people holding signs or verbally harassing them or trying to intimidate people as they are getting a signature or are in the middle of signing,” Pidanick says. “I knew it was going on, but [this week] was the first time I had ever witnessed it and I stopped it.”

Pidanick says she’s also been accused of lying while collecting signatures outside other community meetings with oil and gas companies. One man yelled at her while taking her photo before someone pulled him away and made him walk inside.

“I’ve been at public places where they take your photo, they take video of you,” Pidanick says. “Just real aggressive intimidation tactics, and now they are at a point where they are physically trying to block signatures and it has to stop.”

Orms says in other incidences, managers of buildings or organizers at public events in parks have talked to her about complaints. The police have been called several times when their group has been out canvassing, although they never do anything other than stand and watch them.

“Every single place we go, the first tactic is to ask us to leave and then the second tactic is to try and tell us they have an ordinance or something that says we can’t be there,” Orms says. “And we just have to keep saying, ‘No, sorry, we’re going to be here.’ … We have to tell them that we do have the right to be here and we have to stand our ground.”

Although this is Pidanick’s first time canvassing for a cause, Orms has walked around registering voters before and says she was never harassed this way. Additionally, she’s talked with people circulating petitions for other constitutional amendments such as the State Minimum Wage and Medical Aid in Dying, and they haven’t experienced the same level of scrutiny.

“They tell me they don’t get any harassment at all,” she says. “They don’t get the police called on them.”

As the Aug. 8 deadline for signatures draws near, Pidanick is worried the harassment will only increase.

“It’s growing and it’s getting more intense, and quite frankly I’m afraid someone is going to get hurt,” Pidanick says. “This is our right, this is part of our democracy and they’re trying to block that.”

  • ernie_oertle

    “The Green religion is dying. You can see the evidence of this in the latest Gallup survey showing the number of Americans who identify as `Environmentalist’ down to 42% (from 78% in ’91). But even more telling, are the glimmers of anti-Green __skepticism__ we’re now starting to see in movieland & on TV.
    “All right, so `State of Fear’ (2005) but that movie would certainly never have slipped under the net if it hadn’t had the creator of JurassicPark‘s name (MCrichton) attached. It’s only in the last couple of years that screenwriters have started to recognize what a good idea it is to choose environmentalists as your bad guys: pure evil draped in cuddly, fluffy sanctimoniousness is drama gold.
    “See, for example, `Kingsman’ (2014) which cast SamuelLJackson as an insane Malthusian bent on wiping out the human race for >>the good of the planet<Which means that nobody asks too many questions.< If I was a fraudster, that’s where I would be.' It is a pretty naked anti-environmentalist plot-line. —

    • Boulderite70

      Human caused climate change is real. You can deny all you want, but facts don’t care if you believe them or not.

      • ernie_oertle

        Leftwingers desperate to manipulate are trying to sneak a fraud past us calling something `climate-change’ – but in their disingenuous Power-obsession subterfuge they mean something-else. Climate-change? Yes there is climate-change. There. Always. Has. Been.

        • Hiya ern!

          “That is very very arguable.”

          If and only if one ignores the facts. Puts you into a bit of a quandary.

          Since human-caused climate change is a fact, to quote, “what-chu-gonna-do-about-it”? Ideas?

          PS – Rejecting reality is a poor solution.

          • ernie_oertle

            Your gulag-survivor Solzhenitsyn (unfortunate for you), has pointed out marxist & bolshevist `facts’ aren’t necessarily Facts.

          • The planet is “marxist & bolshevist ” [sic]? It is doing what climate scientists have expected. How is it in on this conspiracy?

            PS – Solzhenitsyn was a Russian nationalist, with no great love for the “decadent” West.

        • heinlein

          I suppose this means you boys have given up on claiming evolution and the Big Bank are hoaxes and the earth is really just 8,000 years old. I take this as a sign progress is possible.

          • ernie_oertle

            If atheist-concocted biblical rubrics are
            politically-invented `social Darwinism’, then that possibly makes
            theHistoricBO’s approach to racial-divisiveness & theEconomy `social
            creationism’ (no evidence of Intelligent Design)!!!

          • heinlein

            I assure you atheist-concocted biblical rubrics are not politically-invented `social Darwinism’.

      • heinlein

        Yesterday I was arguing with a comment forum loon who wasn’t just a climate change denier, but insisted science didn’t work. I’m doing fine without superstition; I doubt my wingnut could do without science. I asked him if he’d fly in an airplane designed by faith or buy a computer designed by prayer.

  • Miltonian

    I wish everyone could address these issues logically and without all of the emotion and anger, but having worked in the oil & gas industry for years, I have been subject to the same – or worse – tactics on the part of the same activists collecting these signatures. Seems like they are okay with intimidating those that don’t agree with them, but cry foul when some one dares to subject them to the same treatment.

    • Roy

      I know. The Greenpeace activists think it’s ok to dangle off of bridges in Portland and board drillships and hang banners, trespass, intimidate and stop people from working. And call trespassing civil disobedience.

  • USEnvironmentalist

    If anyone believes Breitbart, they probably have at least a dozen loose screws. And it will take more than a screwdriver to fix that.

    • ernie_oertle

      So you suffer indigestion over the name of Breitbart – kewl! – but you will accept & are comfortable-w/ there are progressivists posing as fraudster/environmen- talists in-order-to rip people off!!!

  • heinlein

    I’d love to be harassed while trying to sign a petition.