The Outdoor Industry wants public lands managed the same way they manage press conferences

by Monte Wells
by Monte Wells

With great fanfare, the Outdoor Industry invited the public a few days ago to join them in a press conference where they would announce their support for President Obama to designate the Bears Ears National Monument.

What started as an attempt to show “a unified voice in support of efforts to protect the long-neglected Bears Ears region” turned into a master class on how to not run a PR event in the age of the smart phone.

Blinded by hubris, the Outdoor Industry and Dine Bikeyah seemed to think that only ardent supporters of the proposed national monument would show up to a press conference where a bunch of millionaires representing billion dollar companies would use their special access to the Obama Administration to call for a monument designation that would cut off access to land and natural resources in one of the poorest counties in the country.

It turns out the Outdoor Industry was surprised when residents of San Juan County, who oppose the monument, showed up to express their opposition. Imagine their surprise when this small group of Navajo women from San Juan County arrived to the event only to find that “You don’t need a pass to the OR show to attend Thursday’s press event and there is no cost to get in” actually meant “Only credentialed media and invited supporters will be allowed to attend.”

These women were surprised. They were so surprised, in fact, that they did what any self-respecting, smart-phone-wielding, First-Amendment-Exercising citizen would do. They recorded how they were being treated.

The clip is only 90 seconds and worth watching in its entirety, but here is a quick summary: The man in the video is a security guard who is performing the thankless job of telling a group of women and their children who are members of an aggrieved ethnic minority group that they are not welcome to attend an event that was advertised as open to the public. He begins by explaining that a Facebook post published by the group hosting the event inviting the public to attend the event wasn’t an actual invitation to attend the event. At the 17 second mark he actually says, “I am asking you very politely to just go out to the sidewalk, where it is supposed to be public property.” Or in other words, can’t these women just go to the back of the bus and not create any trouble. At the 32 second mark he claims that he doesn’t know who the “Facebook page” author is. Well for those keeping track, it was Dine Bikeyah’s page — the group that was hosting the event he was policing. At the 39 second mark another woman walks into the shot, and the woman who is being denied access asks her how she was invited to the event. The second woman replies, “We’re with SUWA, sorry.” Then she walks in with no credentials.

For those who are wondering who SUWA is, they are the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and they spent the last week encouraging their supporters to send robo-tweets lamenting the fact that Senator Lee held a one-sided hearing in Blanding. Here’s an example:

Here is Senator Lee’s response:

So, even though Senator Lee’s hearing was open to the public, supporters of the monument voluntarily didn’t show up. Then, in an act of narcissism, they claimed that without their presence at the hearing, the hearing couldn’t be legitimate. Now we have supporters of the monument organizing events that they advertise as open to the public, but when those who oppose the monument show up, they are told to go stand outside on the sidewalk. After all, you can’t have dissenting voices get in the way of your stated goal of pursuing an “opportunity to show a united voice.” So, call in the security guard and kick them out.

Hypocrisy. Deceit. Propaganda. Corruption. Racism. Myopia. Narcissism. These are all good words to describe what is going on here.

As disgusting and embarrassing as this behavior is, it is really just a microcosm of how the Outdoor Industry Association, their allies in the environmental movement, and the out-of-state Native American tribes that they have co-opted through generous donations of money want to manage public land.

We’re always being told how our public lands belong to every American, and we are all invited to come enjoy them. But if we show up, and our idea on how to enjoy these lands differs from the dogmatic view of the environmental movement that provides the money, the human capital, and the moral legitimacy to those who want to restrict access to public land through national monument designations, then the invitation to come enjoy our public lands quickly turns into a polite invitation to stand outside on the sidewalk.

If you’re not wearing the right t-shirt, if you’re not a member of the right tribe, if you don’t toe the company line, if you don’t have the ability to pay for access, then you don’t get to be part of the exclusive club of wealthy elites that have the sacred privilege of utilizing our public lands.

The two individuals in the video above are Gavin Noyes the Executive Director of Dine Bikeyah — an organization that should be looking out for the Dine (Navajo) people — and Nizhone Meza their UDB Legal Fellow. These two Dine Bikeyah representatives are preventing two Utah Dine women from San Juan County, Mrs Sheila Moyer and her sister Mrs Danielle Shirley, from entering the press conference because they don’t support the Outdoor Industry leaders views and they aren’t wearing the right shirts or part of the right group.

Dine Bikeyah Staff

After this ordeal, Sheila Moyer and Danielle Shirley provided written statements about their treatment. Here is Sheila’s statement:

Sheila Moyer

The event was posted by Utah Diné Bikéyah and said the event was public and to tell your family and friends to attend. We went down to the event wanting to know more about what was going to be said. We did bring our own signs and made our own t-shirts that opposed the National Monument, but just wanted to hear what was going to be said. My grandmother asked us to attend and to tell her what was being said as she could not make it up to Salt Lake City along with my family.

We were stopped as we tried to walk in to the event and were told that we were no invited to this event and it was a private event. The man seemed to be the Marriott security and asked us to leave and that we could take our signs outside on the curb. We informed him that this was a public event and everyone was invited to attend and he kept telling us we didn’t have a press pass or an outdoor retailer badge so we could not attend. And we could see that many people who were wearing Utah Diné Bikéyah t-shirts were allowed in without having any badges. We were told many times to leave and even threatened to call security if we didn’t leave.

After what seemed like 20 minutes of auguring a member of the Utah Diné Bikéyah came up to us and told us we could not attend, that we needed to be invited. We asked them if they did or did not put up an event on facebook that said it was public and all could attend. The women then said yes we did but the press would be first in to the event following the retailers and members of their organization would be first priority. She then began to apologize after we got questioned by some of the press who saw this going on. She then said we could attend the event if we followed some of her rules: Do not talk to the press, Do not talk to the retailers, Do not cause a scene, No protest posters allowed in & we must stand in the back.

I have never in my life felt so belittled and treated like a second class citizen. We were not there to cause a scene, we just wanted to hear what was going to be said on the opposing side. The whole event was already one-sided with no outside views. I believe this event was profiling from the start and discriminating. To feel so excluded from an issue that is so important to my people and my community of San Juan is infuriating. Today was a sad day for me and my sister, to be treated unfairly and unjust is clearly how Utah Diné Bikéyah does business. This just shows you how fair they are willing to be with this land issue at hand. But I will not allow this to stop me to fight for the No Monument, this just pushes me harder!

Shiela Moyer

Danielle’s statement:

My name is Danielle Shirley,

So finding [Dine Bikeyah’s Facebook invite], I thought it was meant for anyone who was interested in attending the event. Since my grandmother and a lot of other San Juan County residents couldn’t attend this event, I thought my sister and I would help support our community.

Walking up to the event, we saw a lot of the crowd in their “Protect Bears Ears” shirts. It was intimidating because I knew we might be the only ones opposing the monument. Plus we had our signs that said “Monumental Mistake” “Locals Do NOT Want a Monument!” “Doodah” and “No Monument!”

As we got closer to the door, the guy stepped right in front of me and held out his hand and said you are not allowed to go in. I asked why, he had said that this was only for press, the people who have already registered, and “INVITED guests”. This confused me because on the Utah Dine Bikeyah, had said it was for everyone, and that we DID NOT need a badge or to register to attend this event. We held up our phone, and restated the event that had said, telling everyone to bring their families and children, having them wear their T-Shirts.

As you can see in the video, I was asking him why the Facebook group page would invite everyone and tell them that they did not need a badge or register to attend, then not allow me or my sister to the event?

After about half an hour, my sister and I were finally allowed into this event, only if we keep quiet and not say anything to the people or voice our opinions. We told them that’s all we wanted in the first place, was that we wanted to learn and hear their side of their point of views, and we just brought along signs because it is a quiet way of showing how we felt.

While inside we did hear a female tell another person that the people at the door were not allowing in people, and it was profiling. They were only letting in certain people into this event, and some of the attendees did not have badges, but they did have their brown “protect bears ears” shirts.

This was unfair and definitely unjust.

The way these two women were treated leaves me with only three words to say:

“NAVAJO LIVES MATTER”

“DINE LIVES MATTER”

“THE RESIDENTS OF SAN JUAN COUNTY MATTER”

If the Outdoor Industry leaders and Dine Bikeyah are willing to use these controlling, profiling, discriminating practices at a press conference we can only imagine how a national monument will be managed. Expect Federal law enforcement dressed in tactical gear and armed to the teeth with their environmentalist lawyers in tow to enforce land-use restrictions in the Bears Ears National Monument in the same way. And, of course, only those that are invited will get in.

Take a minute and let President Obama know that you believe these lives matter.

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