Judging by the crowd at Frack Free Fest, the fracking industry will face massive deep resistance in southern Illinois. Several hundred gathered for an outdoor concert last weekend featuring regional favorites The Woodbox Gang. Music was the main draw, but fervor for saving the Shawnee Forest from fracking is overwhelming. Widespread support from local business owners was evidenced by dozens of event sponsorships and raffle prize donations.
The crowd cheered speakers in between band sets and a speech about the next phase of opposition to fracking got special attention. Fracktivists in the region feel betrayed by their elected officials, by state government, and by environmental groups who were supposed to represent them. Now that the legislative process has failed them, they're preparing a campaign of widespread nonviolent direct action. This isn't an empty threat. People you might never expect to participate are signing up for civil disobedience training.
I've been to countless protests, meetings, and rallies. What I saw looked like the start of something rare that may become the most significant movement downstate Illinois has seen in many years.
There's a long tradition of regional politicians like John Bradley being easily bought by the fossil fuel industry. Frackers will soon discover that southern Illinois has another long tradition of aggressive popular resistance to those who threaten the land they love.