Keystone XL protestor cleverly disrupts Valero golf tournament, explains how he did it
Jeez, it seems a wealthy white dude can’t even flick mindlessly between Fox News and golf broadcasts these days without being rudely interrupted by a message about the evils of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Last week at the Texas Open, a professional golf tournament sponsored by oil giant Valero, one of the signs being held by volunteer Doug Fahlbusch was changed at the 18th hole from stating players’ names and scores to reveal this message: “TAR SANDS SPILL. ANSWER MANCHESTER.”
Some of the tar-sands oil that would be piped to the Gulf Coast by Keystone XL would be processed by Valero in Houston’s East End, which includes the neighborhood of Manchester, where pollution from industrial operations has long sickened residents.
As you can imagine, Fahlbusch’s statement caused quite the kerfuffle among hoity-toity golf officials and he was carried away by security and arrested by police. Watch the video below and you’ll see one security guard is particularly anxious to wrestle the dastardly sign from the protestor’s hand, even as he is being carried away, perhaps worried that the offensive message might hurt the innocent eyes of any women or children. Which is not bloody likely, given that most golf fans are wealthy middle-aged white men.
A Platts energy blogger was stunned by the organization required to pull off such a stunt. Stunned! From his post:
Think about how this must have occurred. This individual, Douglas Fahlbusch, had to answer the call for volunteers to serve the tournament. These sorts of positions are generally filled by people who like to be out on the course, surrounded by some of the world’s best players. …
Presumably, Fahlbusch needed to pass some sort of background check, though it couldn’t have been too rigorous if the organizers missed the fact that he appears to be a dedicated anti-oil green.
Right, because background checks should reveal those who are “dedicated anti-oil green” activists? Perhaps they should also reveal whether somebody is a communist?
Anyway, no need for speculation, because we asked Fahlbusch for his account of the stunt. Here’s what he told us in an email, which goes to show how easy it can be to make your voice heard on this issue in a novel way, with just a little planning and persistence:
I got the “job” as standard bearer by signing up as a volunteer for the Valero open. It’s interesting, I actually had to pay $50.00 to get the volunteer opportunity. There are hundreds of volunteers and the few that I spoke with were doing it to get a “free” round of golf at the TPC San Antonio golf course. As a volunteer we also got fed each day, got a uniform, and entrance to a volunteer party Saturday night with free drinks and all! Once you sign up and pay to be a volunteer, you can pick which part of the Open to volunteer with. These jobs range from course security, VIP assistant, course marshall, crowd control, etc. I have never been a standard bearer or played golf in my life. I simply saw this event as an opportunity to put a kink in the Valero pr system and get some attention out there about the fence line community of Manchester in Houston, Texas. The Valero Texas Open has this image as a big charity event, raising $10 million or so for San Antonio charities.
I got the idea for the prank after spending some time researching the event and volunteer positions available. As the standard bearer you walk behind the golfers holding a sign that has the golfer names and scores. After I saw an image of a standard bearer, I had the light bulb moment. To prepare for the protest, I walked the golf course for 3 days as a standard bearer, something like 5 miles of walking per day. The first day, I spent some time just looking at the course for places to make a splash. I also made notes of security, and measured the sign so that I could make my own signage for the big day. It became very obvious that the 18th hole was the one, with the most spectators and media on the spot. Once I figured that out, I then spent the next two volunteer days looking for where I could make the sign switch. I guess I did ok as a standard bearer and got a couple of autographed golf balls from the Pro’s that I walked with. After volunteering all day, I went back home and made the signs that I would use for the prank. I ended up making the signs break down into 2 pieces so that I could hide them inside of my shirt. I had the signs taped together, and used an ACE bandage to wrap them to my torso to stay hidden until deployment. I made the sign switch in a bathroom on the walk between the 17th and 18th holes. I went into the bathroom, unwrapped the signs I made and slid them underneath the Valero open signs. I then made the walk with the golfers from the tee to the green on the 18th, hoping that no one would notice the second set of signs under the normal ones. As we approached the green, I altered my path towards the center of the green, pulled off the normal signs to reveal the protest signage, removed my shirt to reveal a Tar Sands Blockade t- shirt and began the protest! The protest did not last long in the end, but I do think I got the attention of the PGA and Valero.
The reason for protesting Valero is based upon their investment in the refining of Tar Sands from Canada. I have been with the Tar Sands Blockade for the last 6 months protesting the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas and Oklahoma. I am very passionate about the issue of climate change and see the extraction of tar sands as the final straw for our planet. I plan on continuing with Tar Sands Blockade as long as possible and hope to join the fight against the northern segment of the pipeline once it is approved by Obama.
And as for the aftermath?
I was arrested. I was charged in the end with Criminal Trespass, a class B misdemeanor. Bail was set at $800.00, which was kindly paid by friends of mine. I spent around 10 hours in the Bexar county jail in San Antonio. The charge I received actually changed 3 times while I was being held in custody. Initially I was charged with disturbing the peace, but while sitting in the back of a police car at the golf course the charges were changed to resisting arrest. This was after a long huddle between a few officers that I could observe through the window of the squad car. I finally received the trespass charge after the magistrate judge looked at my case and evidence against me. The judge gave out the charges and bail, then roughly 4 hours later I was free.
Here’s that video:
Get Grist in your inbox