BOSTON/Government Center - About 40 environmental activists on bicycles converged at Government Center on July 7th to let Massachusetts residents know about Sen. Scott Brown's vote “to gut the Clean Air Act.” To show their unity they wore red t-shirts, chanted the slogan “Scott Brown let us down,” and carried puppets of Scott Brown with "fat cat lobbyists."
The procession was led by three cyclists from Team Cycad, an advertising company that has cyclists tow billboards through the city. The billboards in tow said “Sen. Brown, on April 6th you voted to gut the Clean Air Act. Is it because dirty energy companies and their corporate front groups poured $1,907,998 in to your campaign last year? Are you working for people or Big Polluters? WhichSideAreYouOn.org.” The website promoted on the ad is still under construction, but identifies Brown and Senator Sherrod Brown [D-Ohio] for criticism on the April 6th vote with a similar message and tactics.
Advocates said the action was part of a larger bipartisan national campaign holding politicians accountable for their votes against the Clean Air Act.”
Vanessa Rule, a Boston area activist who organized the downtown rally and donated for the ad said, “As a mother of a child with asthma, I wanted to get the word out to local families that Senator Brown voted to gut the Clean Air Act. His campaign benefited from over $1.9 million from the fossil fuel industry, and now he is putting their profits over our health.”
The bike ride protest was precipitated by MBTA officials declining to allow the ads run in Boston's public transportation system. The environmentalists claim their ad was “too controversial” while Joe Pesaturo, spokesperson for the MBTA says the ban on “political campaign speech” is among a dozen categories of content forbidden under the T's advertising policy.
Other recently banned ads include movie ads deemed too “sexy” or “risqué” and a marijuana legalization ad deemed inappropriate for seemingly promoting smoking to kids. A recent uproar was caused by ads with near-naked women promoting hard alcohol, but those ads have yet to be banned.
Molly Haigh of 350.org said that the MBTA said “Our original rejection came from Titan 360, MBTA's ad agency... Later, MBTA called... to say that we were not banned, and then called back to say that we had been re-banned for 'political speech,' because Senator Brown was also a candidate for office.” Drawing the line between protected free speech and an end run around campaign financing laws when criticizing politicians has been a hot topic for the courts and public debate, although Brown's re-election bid is more than a year away and the ads do not make any mention of it or his potential opponents.
Shut out from public transportation, the Clean Air campaigners opted to promote their ad campaign through another green transportation alternative: bicycles. The rolling protest made stops at the offices of the MBTA and the State House before looping back for Brown's downtown office.
Internet savvy activists associated with 350.org raised money for the ad through many small online contributions. The number 350 refers to the upper limit of carbon dioxide molecules, per one million, that many climate scientists believe the atmosphere can absorb before triggering climate change. NOAA currently estimates atmospheric CO2 at just over 393 ppm.
Four votes were held in the US Senate on April 6th which failed to pass. The amendments introduced by Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to varying degrees would have delayed or prevented the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing congressionally mandated and Supreme Court-affirmed responsibilities to address greenhouse gases from the largest sources of pollution.
Other ads criticizing Brown's vote also ran on the radio sponsored by the Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters and Environment Massachusetts, as well as a TV ad by the League of Women Voters.
Organizers of the July 7th bicycle rally are now planning to build another action on September 24th as part of a massive world-wide day of action called “Moving Planet.” As the cyclists rallied back at Government Center, they told participants to expect thousands of people in the streets that day, marching and biking for action on climate change and clean air.
Sen. Scott Brown's staff did not respond to a request for comment.