President Obama’s reelection campaign chairman, Jim Messina recently told reporters that Obama supporters would be fine once the campaign explained all the Administration had accomplished. “No one is calling me up yelling,” he insisted.
That changed today, when between 40-50 Tar Sands protesters, mostly Harvard students and folks from local environmental groups and several of whom had recently been arrested in front of the White House, showed up to greet Messina as he entered a Harvard dorm complex to speak to the few who bothered to show up to listen to him.
Chanting “Obama can stop tar sands! Yes he can!,” the demonstrators managed to serenade Messina as he detoured through a side entrance after his advance team spotted the demonstrators and tried to sneak him past them.
As we reported last night, Messina was scheduled to speak at the Kirkland House, one of several undergraduate housing/dorms on the Harvard campus. The normal entrance to Kirkland is on a side street near the Kennedy School, so that’s where the demonstrators had set up, expecting Messina to walk between their flanks as he entered the main courtyard on the way to the meeting room.
A few demonstrators held a banner and signs; most were students and members of the student Environmental Action Committee, which had organized the event, along with folks from local environmental groups. They were not blocking the entrance and had no plans to go beyond the main entry, since the planned talk was closed to the public and off the record for those selected by raffle to attend. We weren’t permitted inside, but I could see through the windows to the courtyard there were only a handful waiting to hear Messina.
When Messina’s car arrived and his advance team saw the protestors waiting at the main entrance, they drove Messina around the block and entered through the usually locked gates on the other side of the courtyard. Suspecting this might happen, the protestors quickly moved inside the courtyard just as Messina was slipping in the back gate and entering the courtyard.
When they saw him, the reorganized group yelled and yelled — there’s no doubt Messina heard them this time, barely 40 feet away — as Messina and escorts quickly ducked in yet another side door instead of the obvious main entry to the scheduled speaking room. After Messina went in, the group yelled some more, just outside the room, whose windows were open.
So the next time Mr. Messina talks to reporters about what his previous supporters are telling him, he should reply, “Obama can stop the tar sands! Yes he can!”
Talking to the demonstrators later, I learned that of the more than 40, many of them students, who gathered on short notice to greet Mr. Messina, 25 of them said they had worked on the Obama campaign in 2008. When asked how many would do so in 2012 if Obama approved the related Keystone XL pipeline, only 5 raised their hands. And of the 40+, 13 (not counting me) of them said they had been arrested in front of the White House during the Tar Sands Action last month.
That’s your base, Jim. They’re getting arrested to protest your guy. You’re losing them. Time to listen up and pay attention.
[New picture added showing the group inside the coutryard as Messina arrived. Also see this photo from ThinkProgress shows the group gathering at the main entrance about a half hour before. Great job done by student organizers, Serena Zhao and Sam Novey]