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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Earth Hour event turns into face-off

Climate change backers, skeptics clash at City Hall

Dan Hansen Special to The Spokesman-Review

Global warming protesters generated a lot of heat Saturday night at the entrance to Spokane City Hall.

It looked for a while like candle-carrying environmentalists might come to blows with those who contend global warming is a hoax perpetuated by the United Nations. But the situation cooled a bit when police showed up and stood in the background.

“We are law-abiding citizens, trying to have a peaceful protest here,” said conservative activist Mike Fagan, who was frustrated as an environmental protester repeatedly interrupted the speech he was trying to deliver through a bullhorn.

The opposing sides were drawn to City Hall in response to Earth Hour, an international effort to draw attention to environmental concerns and call for a binding pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Lights were switched off in some 4,000 cities in more than 120 countries for an hour Saturday, starting at 8:30 p.m. in each time zone.

The Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Sydney’s Opera House and Beijing’s Forbidden City were among the landmarks that went dark, along with American icons such as the Empire State Building, the National Cathedral and Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta. The Capitol dome lights also were off in Olympia.

In Spokane, Mayor Mary Verner issued a proclamation supporting Earth Hour and encouraging city employees to participate.

Fagan, who last year ran for a City Council seat, accused Verner of “using city resources to perpetuate the falsehood of global climate change to advance her sustainability agenda.” His followers carried flashlights and spotlights, to light up City Hall.

Counter-protesters, meanwhile, shouted that science and youth were on their side.

For bystanders enjoying a warm spring evening, it was high drama.

Fagan, who earlier this month held a similar demonstration in opposition to health care reform, stood on a U.N. flag and led a chant of, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, United Nations gotta go.”

The man who most aggressively confronted him carried an Earth flag.

There were the obligatory signs.

From those who disbelieve global warming: “Freedom trumps sustainability” and “My SUV, my light bulbs, my property. Back off!”

From the environmentalists: “Stop ignoring it.”

And both sides cheered when the occasional car honked. There was no way of telling which side any of the drivers supported.

Craig Steel, a West Plains farmer, said he’s worried that the United States is “going down, and we’ve got to put a stop to it.” He blames the U.N., in part.

“They’ve shut down our mines, they’ve dynamited our smelters,” said Steel, 54.

Elizabeth Gulick, 21, said she showed up to support Verner. The Spokane Falls Community College student said the protest was worthwhile, though “I don’t think any sides were swayed.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.