Society

Glitter Causes Protesters To Be Charged With Terrorism Hoax

| by Kathryn Schroeder

The state of Oklahoma may for the first time use the "terrorism hoax" statute because of glitter.

Moriah Stephenson, 27, a graduate student and waitress, and Stefan Warner, 26, a youth pastor turned full-time organizer for the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, were part of a small group of activists on December 13 at the Devon Energy office building.

Devon is a leading company in oil and natural gas drilling, including fracking, as well Alberta's tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline.  

Stephenson and Warner unveiled a banner during the protest on the second floor of the building, overlooking the atrium. The banner read, "The odds are never in our favor," which contained a gold mocking jay symbol - a direct reference to the pop culture phenomenon The Hunger Games, report The Guardian.

The banner malfunctioned, so to speak, and glitter started drifting to the floor.  

A few minutes later, Stephenson and Warner took down the banner and left the building, but not before apologizing to the janitor who had arrived with a broom.

There was not very much glitter, and most people barely noticed.

"A lot of people when they heard about it they imagined buckets of glitter being dumped on people running and screaming, and chaos and panic...It wasn't chaos and panic at all. It was a pretty boring protest until the police showed up and decided to make a big deal of everything," Stephenson said.

Devon Energy and the Oklahoma City Police see it very differently.

Stephenson and Warner were arrested for faking a bioterrorism attack, in addition to trespassing charges, reports the Huffington Post. Two other activists in the group were only charged with trespassing as they were not involved in the hanging of the glittered banner.

Captain Dexter Nelson, an Oklahoma City police spokesman, claims the glitter sent off a panic and that residents of Oklahoma still carry scars from the Oklahoma City bombing.

"From the totality of the incident when they unveiled the banners and this black powder went flying through the air, all of the people who saw it deemed that it had to be something dangerous or toxic and went into a panic," Nelson said. "From what I was told people were running around and thinking that it was something dangerous."

Nelson has even gone so far as to say the protestors were covered in feces, a claim they and their attorney Douglas Parr vehemently deny.

"Any comment that either one of those people was covered in feces is an absolute, unmitigated lie," Parr said.

The charge of terrorism hoax carries a maximum penalty of 10 years. The Oklahoma City district attorney has not confirmed the charges.  

Stephenson and Warner see the entire episode as evidence of a pro-industry bias in the heart of America's oil and natural gas boom, reports The Guardian.

"It sends a message to other activists that the price of dissent is very high," said Stephenson.

"It's just a reminder of the consolidation of power between the state and private industry," Warner said.