WICHITA — Organizers of a weekend protest in Wichita targeting billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch say about 500 activists have confirmed their plans to attend.
Event coordinator Yvonne Cather told The Wichita Eagle that people are coming from as far away as San Francisco and Washington, D.C., for the three-day “Occupy Koch Town.”
Wichita is the home of Koch Industries. Organizers of the protests that begin today contend the Koch brothers exemplify corporate dominance of politics and distortion of science that is perpetuating bad energy policy.
“This protest is a politically motivated attack and an attempt to harass and demonize an American company with 50,000 U.S.-based employees — 2,700 of those in Kansas,” Koch spokeswoman Melissa Cohlmia said in an email.
Cather said participating groups also oppose the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL oil pipeline but it was not the chief motive for the event. Opponents say the pipeline would carry Canadian oil to Texas refineries, and the oil it would carry endangers the Ogallala Aquifer and farms along its route.
Last month, President Barack Obama’s administration denied a permit for the pipeline, but left the door open for TransCanada to apply for a new pipeline route that avoids the state of Nebraska’s environmentally sensitive Sandhills region.
Koch Industries has no financial stake in the pipeline, Cohlmia said.
Many of the activities are planned for Saturday at the Grand Chapel in Wichita. The group has also scheduled a march that day to the Kansas Policy Institute.
Scheduled speakers plan to talk about environmental and climate issues, energy policy and income inequality, among other topics.
Event sponsors include the Kansas and Missouri chapters of the Sierra Club and Occupy movements in Wichita, Lawrence, Kansas City, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Barber County.