Tea Party's fake protestors for Big Sugar against Florida Everglades

| 8th April 2015
A 'money-burning' event organised by the Miami Tea Party to oppose a 46,000 acre conservation land purchase - but were the 'protestors' all actors? So it would seem. Photo: from Youtube video by Miami Tea Party.
A 'money-burning' event organised by the Miami Tea Party to oppose a 46,000 acre conservation land purchase - but were the 'protestors' all actors? So it would seem. Photo: from Youtube video by Miami Tea Party.
The Tea Party of Miami put up a convincing demo last week to oppose a 'land grab' that would see 46,000 acres of sugar farm land restored for Everglades conservation. Just one problem - the 'protestors' were actors each being paid $75 for the two-hour shift.
Details: Basically to stand behind fence, holding banners or signs that will be provided. Clothing is almost anything!! Just wardrobe for a Political Rally ... We will pay CASH of $75 at end of shoot.

South Florida Water Management District had a meeting last week to discuss buying 46,000 acres of 'conservation' land from US Sugar and other landowners south of Lake Okeechobee.

The intention is to use the land to recreate a large area of the Everglades ecosystem on the former farmland, and create a 26,000 acre system of lakes to store and remediate seriously contaminated run-off water from sugar farms, and so keep the nitrogen and phosphorus-rich water out of lakes, water courses, wetlands, springs and public water supply.

Thanks to the surfeit of nutrients, huge areas of open water and wetlands are regularly afflicted by outbreaks of stinking green slime - and the water district has come under growing pressure to act to stop the pollution and its severe consequences on local people and the Everglades.

Cue a mysterious post on the Facebook page of the Broward Acting Group headed "Political Really Protestors Needed!!" and offering $75 each (no breakfast) for up to 40 actors to show up at the water district on 2nd April from 8.30 to 10.30 am:

"Details: Basically to stand behind fence, holding banners or signs that will be provided. Clothing is almost anything!! Use common sense and don't wear 'club' outfits or gym clothes. Just wardrobe for a Political Rally...We will pay CASH of $75 at end of shoot."

'It's pathetic!'

And sure enough, a well-attended protest of around 50 people took place that morning doubtless convincing the water district that it faced strong public opposition to its plan. Until, that is, a political group called Progress Florida released a screen shot of the Facebook post (since removed, but see screengrab above right).

The group claims to "hold our elected officials accountable by empowering citizens in their communities. We're fighting for social justice, economic fairness, strengthening public education, health care reform, environmental protection, and much more."

According to the Palm Beach Post the protest was sponsored by Tea Party of Miami and Florida Citizens Against Waste, described as "a recently formed group that has no contact information on its website and is not registered to do business in Florida."

"Big Sugar supporters hiring actors to pretend to protest is pathetic", said Progress Florida executive director Mark Ferrulo. "Someone should ask who is paying for artificial sweetener to make polluting the Everglades and our drinking water easier to swallow."

Another fake protest by the Tea Party of Miami?

The Tea Party of Miami is fiercely opposed to the plan, which it claims will cost Forida an initial $500 million for the land purchase, and as much as $2 billion to execute the entire conservation plan, describing its supporters as "radicalized environmentalists" acting "under the pretense of cleaning-up the environment".

The problem is all too real!

While the 'protests' put up by the Tea Party of Miami against the so-called "land grab" may be as fake as a three-dollar bill, the pollution problems faced by the Everglades are all too real and present.

And according to the environmental law group Earth Justice, Florida's Lake Okeechobee - "home of Big Sugar" - is faring especially badly: "At present, polluters are legally discharging 300 tons of phosphorous over the legal limit, and the legislature is proposing a plan that will only reduce pollution by 100 tons over 10 years."

Florida's current plan to deal with the problem is to get rid of Florida's water pollution permits and replace them with a voluntary 'Best Management Practices' system. But according to Earth Justice, the plan is 'designed to fail':

"Large agricultural corporations have convinced the state to let them off the hook as long as the polluters claim they are changing the way they handle manure and fertilizer. This is simply legalizing pollution. Instead of requiring permits, the state would just be asking polluters, 'What's your plan?' That alone would be considered compliance."

Last August an outbreak of toxic 'green slime' algae caused officials in Toledo, Ohio to ban citizens from drinking tainted city water for several days. Another water plant serving 30,000 people along Southwest Florida's Caloosahatchee River, near Fort Myers, has been repeatedly shut down over the years because toxic algae makes the water unsafe.

Many of Florida's 900 freshwater springs, known for their deep blue water, which are a major draw to both locals and tourists as open air swimming places, are also suffering from toxic green algae. Some of the best swimming holes in the state now have "No Swimming" signs posted due to the public health threat.

In 2014 state senators from the 'springs country' were deluged with protests from constituents who want the springs protected - and introduced legislation to provide over $300 million to protect the springs.

But polluter lobbyists first succeeded in weakening the measure, before it died altogether in the Florida House of Representatives.



Oliver Tickell edits The Ecologist.


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