Hey Hey! Ho Ho! These Climate Activists Get Paid to Go. | Big Indy News
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Hey Hey! Ho Ho! These Climate Activists Get Paid to Go.



They’ve taken hammers to gas pumps and glued themselves to museum masterpieces and busy roadways. They’ve chained themselves to banks, rushed onto a Grand
Prix racetrack and tethered themselves to goal posts as tens of thousands of British soccer fans jeered.

The activists who undertook these worldwide acts of disruption during the last year said that they were desperate to convey the urgency of the climate crisis and that the most effective way to do so was in public, blockading oil terminals and upsetting normal activities.

They also share a surprising financial lifeline: heirs to two American families that became fabulously rich from oil.

Two relatively new nonprofit organizations, which the oil scions helped found, are funding dozens of protest groups dedicated to interrupting business as usual through civil disobedience, mostly in the United States, Canada and Europe. While volunteers with established environmental groups like Greenpeace International have long used disruptive tactics to call attention to ecological threats, the new organizations are funding grass-roots activists.

The California-based Climate Emergency Fund was founded in 2019 on the ethos that civil resistance is integral to achieving the rapid widespread social and political changes needed to tackle the climate crisis.

Margaret Klein Salamon, the fund’s executive director, pointed to social movements of the past — suffragists, civil rights and gay rights activists — that achieved success after protesters took nonviolent demonstrations to the streets.

“Action moves public opinion and what the media covers, and moves the realm of what’s politically possible,” Ms. Salamon said. “The normal systems have failed. It’s time for every person to realize that we need to take this on.”

So far, the fund has given away just over $7 million, with the goal of pushing society into emergency mode, she said. Even though the United States is on the cusp of enacting historic climate legislation, the bill allows more oil and gas expansion, which scientists say needs to stop immediately to avert planetary catastrophe.

Sharing these goals with the Climate Emergency Fund is the Equation Campaign. Founded in 2020, it provides financial support and legal defense to people living near pipelines and refineries who are trying to stop fossil fuel expansion, through methods including civil disobedience.

Strikingly, both organizations are backed by oil-fortune families whose descendants feel a responsibility to reverse the harms done by fossil fuels. Aileen Getty, whose grandfather created Getty Oil, helped found the Climate Emergency Fund and has given it $1 million so far. The Equation Campaign started in 2020 with $30 million from two members of the Rockefeller family, Rebecca Rockefeller Lambert and Peter Gill Case. John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil in 1870 and became the country’s first billionaire.

“It’s time to put the genie back in the bottle,” Mr. Case wrote in an email. “I feel a moral obligation to do my part. Wouldn’t you?”

Belief in the transformative power of extreme civil disobedience is not universal, and some actions by the groups, particularly those backed by the Climate Emergency Fund, have irritated the public.

Protesters have been screamed at, threatened, labeled eco-zealots and dragged off by angry commuters. Research from the University of Toronto and Stanford University also found that while more disruptive protests attracted publicity, they could undermine a movement’s credibility and alienate potential support.

But Ms. Salamon and activists backed by the Climate Emergency Fund said pushback was inevitable. They pointed to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who, according to a Gallup Poll, had a 63 percent disapproval rating in the years leading up to his death.

“We’re not trying to be popular,” said Zain Haq, a co-founder of the Canadian group Save Old Growth, which blocks roads to thwart the logging of ancient forests in British Columbia and received $170,000 from the Climate Emergency Fund. “Civil disobedience historically is about challenging a way of life.”

There is some evidence that newer climate protest groups have gotten traction. Researchers found that Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement had played an outsize role in increasing awareness and driving climate policy. In terms of cost effectiveness, the protest groups often bested traditional “Big Green” nonprofit environmental groups in helping drive down greenhouse gas emissions, according to the findings.

For the Equation Campaign, stopping further oil and gas expansion has a quantifiable impact. The cancellation of an extension of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, following years of resistance from tribes, farmers and local ranchers, prevented the release of as much as 180 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year, by one estimate. The Equation Campaign is funding campaigns against a host of other fossil fuel projects and helps activists who are often targeted with what the group’s executive director, Katie Redford, described as exaggerated charges and false arrests.

“For the climate and literally for humanity to win, we need them to win, and to stop the industry from building more stuff that puts greenhouse gases into the environment,” Ms. Redford said.

Climate activists receive far less funding than major environmental groups, particularly from philanthropic interests, which give just a fraction of their spending for climate issues worldwide. According to the ClimateWorks Foundation, less than 2 percent of global philanthropy funds in 2020 went to mitigating climate change (though its share is growing), a sliver of which was dedicated to grass-roots activity and movement building.

Both Ms. Redford and Ms. Salamon said their groups had financed only legal activities, such as training, education, travel and printing and recruitment costs. Grant recipients must confirm that the money has not been spent on activities prohibited by law.

They also contested any suggestion that paying activists made their actions less authentic, noting that recipients had already been working around the clock as volunteers, often draining their bank accounts in the process. “This is their passion,” Ms. Salamon said.

“It’s not fair to continue to ask Indigenous people, Black, brown and poor people who live on the front lines to do this work for free simply because they have been doing it in their ‘spare time,’” Ms. Redford said.

Activists on the receiving end described the money as a godsend. Some had dropped out of classes to devote themselves to full-time climate activism, driven by a sense of urgency and moral duty. Others juggled several jobs to pay the bills.

Miranda Whelehan, of the British group Just Stop Oil, said members had been overworked and stressed until the Climate Emergency Fund gave them close to $1 million and helped cover salaries for 40 organizers and activists.

“Obviously, you can only do so much as volunteers,” Ms. Whelehan said. “Huge oil companies have millions, if not billions.”

Over and over, the activists said that they didn’t want to engage in civil disobedience but that more traditional efforts had yet to stave off widespread climate disaster. “We’ve tried everything else,” said Louis McKechnie, a Just Stop Oil member who has been arrested about 20 times.

Winona LaDuke, the executive director of the Native environmental nonprofit group Honor the Earth, said her organization had spent seven years fighting the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota, attending every regulatory meeting and hearing, and for naught.

She said she had been arrested and charged with trespassing despite being on public property and was endlessly grateful that the Equation Campaign, which has given her group more than $400,000, had held firm in its support.

“We put our bodies on the line because we had no other legal recourse — we had nothing,” Ms. LaDuke said. “We knew we were going to get arrested.”

For some activists, civil disobedience has proved to be unexpectedly gratifying.

Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist who works for NASA, said he had spent 16 years trying to compel corporate executives, government leaders and the public to act on the climate emergency. Ultimately, he concluded that he and the environmental movement were losing badly.

In April, Mr. Kalmus was one of roughly 1,000 scientists in 25 countries who blocked traffic and chained themselves to, among other targets, the gates of the White House and doors of bank branches as part of the Scientist Rebellion. The participants weren’t paid, but the group received $100,000 from the Climate Emergency Fund for organizer and consultant wages, space rental and travel costs.

Afterward, Dr. Kalmus — who noted he was not speaking for NASA — said feedback had poured in from around the world saying that he had made a difference and had left people inspired.

“I get messages every day from people who said it had given them hope,” Dr. Kalmus said. “It seemed to communicate that urgency far more than anything else.”

For others, protesting has come at a personal cost. Mr. McKechnie said he had been kicked out of Bournemouth University because of his climate activism. In March, he embarked on perhaps his most public action yet, using a zip tie threaded with metal to tether himself to a goal post during a Premiere League football match. He said he had felt the “hate and menace” of everyone in the crowd and had been kicked and lunged at as he was being escorted out. Mr. McKechnie was arrested, and he said he had received so many death threats that he had deleted his social media accounts.

But he was also unmoved in his resolve. “Even if 1 percent of the crowd looked up who we are and what we’re doing, it would’ve been a massive win,” he said.

Not long afterward, Mr. McKechnie was at a Just Stop Oil meeting, where everyone in attendance was asked what had brought them there. One fellow raised his hand, Mr. McKechnie said, and “he said, ‘Well, I was at a football game, and a wanker locked himself to the pitch.’”

“I hate having to do any of this,” Mr. McKechnie continued. “But the only way to get them to listen and to protect the future of my own generation is to make an annoyance so loud that even with their heads buried in the sand, it will drown it out.”

Mr. Case said that it was too early to tell whether the Equation Campaign had achieved its aims but that he and Ms. Lambert were committed to spending “at a high rate” until 2030.

The next few years are crucial. Climate scientists say nations must cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 50 percent by the end of this decade to avoid the most severe effects of a warming planet.

In an email, Ms. Getty said her belief in the effectiveness of activism was unshaken, especially with time running out. Civil disobedience was meant to serve as an alarm, she said, and discomfort caused by disruptive protests paled in comparison to what might well lie in store.

“Let’s not forget that we’re talking about extinction,” Ms. Getty wrote in an email. “Don’t we have a responsibility to take every means of trying to protect life on Earth?”

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California man who fatally stabbed Las Vegas showgirl found unfit to stand trial



The knife-wielding madman accused of fatally stabbing two people on the Last Vegas Strip — including a showgirl — was found mentally unfit to stand trial, The Post has confirmed.

A Las Vegas judge on Friday ruled Yoni Barrios, 32, must remain at a state psychiatric facility until a court-appointed psychiatrist can determine whether he is mentally competent to stand trial, according to court records.

Barrios was charged with two counts of open murder with a deadly weapon and six counts of attempted murder in the senseless broad-daylight attack on October 6.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police said Barrios stabbed showgirl Maris Digiovanni in the heart and bystander Brent Hallet with a kitchen knife near the Wynn hotel.

Yoni Barrios appears in court at the Regional Justice Center, on Oct. 11, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Barrios also allegedly stabbed six others, including showgirls Anna Westby and Victoria Cayetano.

According to a police report obtained by The Post, Barrios went into the Wynn looking for a job. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed Barrios, a Guatemalan national, was in the country illegally.

Las Vegas showgirl Anna Westby was rushed to the hospital after Yoni Barrios allegedly stabbed her in the back.
A Las Vegas showgirl was rushed to the hospital after Yoni Barrios’ attack.
Pierre Fandrich

Police said Barrios spoke to a security guard at the Wynn and said he wanted to sell the knives he had in his possession so he could obtain some money to go back to his country.

The guard told him to “jump in front of a train,” according to the police report.

Yoni Barrios shown in a mug shot.
Yoni Barrios shown in a mug shot.

An enraged Barrios then approached the showgirls, later telling police they laughed and made fun of his clothing.

“Barrios said he became angry and stabbed one of the women [Digiovanni] in the chest after which he began stabbing the other women in the group as they ran away,” the police report said.

“Barrios started running and looking for groups of people so he could ‘let the anger out.’”

If the court determines Barrios is competent, the criminal case will proceed.

Barrios had been living in the streets in Los Angeles before he decided to go to Las Vegas. A friend of Barrios told The Post the 32-year old was a former stripper who mooched off men and women who had romantic interests in him.

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As Ukraine Presses Its Offensive, a Call for Evacuations From a Russian-Controlled Area



KYIV, Ukraine — Less than a month after driving Russian forces from the city of Kherson on the west bank of the Dnipro River, the Ukrainian authorities on Saturday issued an urgent call for civilians to evacuate from Russian-occupied areas on the eastern bank, suggesting that Kyiv’s military might press its offensive and try to establish a foothold across the waterway.

“The evacuation is necessary due to the possible intensification of hostilities in this area,” Yaroslav Yanushevych, the head of the Kherson regional military administration, in Ukraine’s south, said in an announcement to residents.

It was not clear how many people would be able to make it across the river on private boats and other vessels because all of the main crossings have been destroyed. The public call for evacuations was also most likely intended to signal to the Russians that an assault might be coming, though Ukraine has in the past used deception to focus Russian attention in one direction while preparing for an offensive somewhere else.

Ukrainian forces are pushing on into the winter after two sweeping offensives in the northeast and south in the fall. They are once again stepping up strikes on Russian supply routes, command centers and ammunition depots from new forward positions.

The Russian withdrawal from Kherson was both an embarrassment for the Kremlin, which had only recently declared the region to be a part of Russia, and a strategic setback as it put the Ukrainians in a better position to threaten supply lines from Crimea with long-range precision weapons provided by its Western allies.

After being driven across the Dnipro River in Kherson, Russian forces set about fortifying defensive positions about 10 to 20 miles from the eastern bank, according to the Ukrainian military and satellite imagery. But the river divides Ukrainian and Russian forces along a route that stretches more than 200 miles, and Russian forces are spread thin.

“Russian forces clearly do not expect to be able to prevent Ukrainian forces from getting across the river, nor are the Russians prioritizing defensive positions to stop such a crossing,” the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research group, said earlier this week after analyzing publicly available satellite photos of the Russian defensive positions.

A ban on river crossings would be lifted from Saturday to Monday to facilitate the evacuations, Mr. Yanushevych said, noting that only one dock would be opened. All those fleeing Russian-occupied territories must bring documents certifying their identity and confirming their Ukrainian citizenship, he said.

Farther to the northeast, where the river widens into a vast reservoir held back by a vital dam in Nova Kakhovka, Ukrainian officials and residents said that the Russian civilian administration this week had begun to flee farther east.

The Ukrainian military has noted that it was seeing a decrease in the number of Russian troops in the towns and villages along the river. “A minimal number of occupiers remain in the cities,” the military said last month.

The account was supported by local residents reached by telephone in recent days.

North of the dam, speculation continued to swirl around Russian intentions at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since early in the war and where Ukrainian intelligence has estimated at least 500 soldiers are garrisoned.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at a news conference in Rome on Friday that the agency was “almost there” in brokering a deal for Russian troops to pull out of the plant and to create a demilitarized zone around the facility, which has been at the center of frequent shelling.

“We have a proposal on the table which simply put is aiming to stop the folly of bombing the largest nuclear power plant in Europe,” he said.

Although the Kremlin has pushed back on Ukrainian suggestions that its forces were preparing to leave the nuclear plant, Alexei Likhachev, the head of the Russian nuclear energy agency, confirmed negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog group, were continuing.

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Georgia fugitive gets himself arrested after commenting on ‘most wanted’ post



This is not a list most would ask to be on.

A Georgia man assisted law enforcement in his arrest after he commented on the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page.

When the sheriff’s department, located east of Atlanta, released their “Most Wanted List” for November, Christopher Spaulding appeared offended by the omission.

“How about me” Spaulding asked through his personal Facebook account.

The department was happy to reply on Thursday, saying, “you are correct you have two warrants, we are on the way.” 

Later on Thursday, Rockdale police shared an update to the bizarre exchange. Spaulding, wearing a red Georgia Bulldogs hoodie and hat, was apprehended and handcuffed.

The 40-year-old had two warrants for Felony Violation of Probation, according to police.

The Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office was happy to add Spaulding to the list.
Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office / Facebook

“We appreciate you for your assistance in your capture!” the department said in the post.

After Spaulding was taken into custody, the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office reminded wanted fugitives that being left off the “Most Wanted List” isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card.

“Our Top 10 is compiled based off of the severity of the charges only. By not being on this list does not mean our Fugitive Unit is not looking for you if you have an active warrant.”

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