LA Fractivists Protest NY Gov. Cuomo at Swanky Hollywood Fundraiser

cuomo-350Last Thursday night, a small but mighty group of LA fractivists descended upon Governor Andrew Cuomo’s swanky Hollywood fundraiser hosted by the head of Fox Studios. While Cuomo was there to raise money for his re-election, we were there in solidarity with our comrades from New Yorkers Against Fracking to tell him not to lift the NY fracking moratorium.

Our group included several LA environmentalists, as well as a woman named Diane. She has a personal stake in this issue because she owns several thousand acres of farmland in upstate New York that is surrounded by prime fracking land.

Organized by Food and Water Watch LA staffers Brenna Norton and Alex Nagy, the protest started on Sunset Boulevard during the height of LA traffic at 5:30 pm. We stood with our signs on the corner of the street for about 30 minutes before marching to the house.

cuomo-354Unlike the massive security surrounding the last Hollywood fundraiser for California’s Governor Jerry Brown that we protested, this soiree attracted one lone LAPD officer who was very chill. Victor allowed us to walk on the street, since there were no sidewalks, and even said we could use our megaphone if we wanted.

Once at the palatial home, we were left alone by private security. We were able to go right up to each guest as they got out of their cars to ask them to please tell the Governor not to lift the fracking moratorium. I personally knew one of the event’s hosts from  similar fundraisers and it turned out that I knew several of the attendees as well. As I went to give one friend a big hug, I noticed “a deer in the headlights” look on her face before she recognized me. We found most people to be gracious, either nodding in support of our request or saying they agreed with us. Only a couple of people held their heads high and looked straight ahead ignoring our polite pleas.

cuomo-352That’s when I got the idea to have 10-year-old Michael Howell approach the guests. After all, who’s going to ignore a cute kid? Being homeschooled by their activist parents Rachael and Ron, Michael and his five-year-old brother are already well versed in the art of protest. In fact, Michael gave a short but sweet speech at our November 25 protest to tell Obama to flush the TPP–Trans-Pacific Partnership. At Thursday night’s event, he contributed by composing a chant on the spot. “Andrew Cuomo don’t be mean. We wanna keep our water clean.”

One of our fractivists, Green Party member Linda Piera-Avila, recognized Bobby Shriver, of the Kennedy dynasty, since she ran against him for Santa Monica City Council. She asked him to urge Cuomo not to lift the moratorium. Then she asked him if he were against fracking, since he is now running for LA County Supervisor. He assured her he was.

cuomo-355At one point, I was holding my sign that said “Gov. Cuomo, Presidential Hopefuls Don’t Frack” in front of this limo driver who gave me the thumbs up while Victor, the LAPD officer, was telling the others to stand back a bit so they wouldn’t get hurt. I walked over to the limo driver who indicated to me that he had just dropped off the Governor. So while I was mugging for him and our protesters were listening to a lecture from LA’s finest, we missed our chance to address the Governor in person.

After everyone was dropped off, we noticed a lone well-dressed couple waiting on the curb for their car. They turned out to be Corky Hale and Mike Stoller, he part of the famous songwriting team Leiber and Stoller and she a famous jazz musician in her day. She said she got Pelosi to drop by the fundraiser and asked if I saw her there. I responded I did not. Hale told us she was completely sympathetic to our cause but that she thought Cuomo would make a good president. I introduced her to Alex and told her about all the great work that FWW was doing in hopes that she might host a fundraiser in the future. But it sounded like she was busy with her main issues: pro-choice and gun control.

cuomo-crazy-350After they got their car, we decided to disperse as there was no one left to talk to. Before we left, I walked over to one of the guys with the earpieces and asked if he worked for the Governor. He said he did. I told him we were friendly protesters. We were just there to praise the Governor for keeping the NY fracking moratorium in place. He said he understood. I then asked him if he would take a photo of my sign to show the Governor. He said, “I can’t do that, Maam.” Then I gave Victor from the LAPD a good-bye hug and asked if we could request his presence at future actions. LOL!

lauren-steiner-2014Later that night, I emailed my two friends to see if our protest was acknowledged inside the fundraiser. I was told it was not, but Cuomo was asked a question about fracking. His answer was summarized like this: “Cuomo was quite good, I thought, on the subject, saying that any new action needs a series of meetings of all the players, with emotions ignored and facts paramount. He didn’t say it at all as if anti-frackers were “just emotional”…. he was emphasizing the need for rigorous, thorough assessment of the positions of all sides.”

All in all, we thought the protest quite successful. Cuomo got the idea that he can leave the state, but he can’t escape the fractivists. So New Yorkers, if Jerry Brown comes to your neck of the woods, we hope you return the favor!

Lauren Steiner

Photo: Mike Chickey

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