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October 22, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Letter-filled coffin illustrates protesters’ opposition to treaty

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Joe Schoenmann

GMO-Free Las Vegas leader Angie Morelli deliveres 109 stamped envelopes with letters to Nevada’s congressional delegation encouraging them not to support the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade agreement. The letters, placed in a coffin, arrived at the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse via a hearse on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014.

About a dozen people – a bus driver, business owner and model among them – carried a black, plywood coffin out of a hearse and to the front of downtown’s Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse.

They stopped short of their original plan, to dump the 109 stamped envelopes inside the coffin at the courthouse’s doors, when security personnel allowed them to deliver the letters to representatives of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Today’s protest was organized by GMO-Free Las Vegas, which has been pushing for more than a year for Congress to support proposals that would force suppliers to label foods that contain genetically modified organisms.

The letters contained currency, typically a $1 bill, and a letter urging Nevada’s congressional delegation to fight the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade agreement. Angie Morelli, leader of the group, said the TPP, as it is more commonly known, would virtually provide the legal means for agricultural businesses to ignore any attempt at GMO labeling.

“It was written by corporate advisers, not legislators, and will be a corporate bill of rights that will supercede our Bill of Rights and touches on Internet freedom, generic medicines and labeling,” Morelli said.

Courthouse security staff let Morelli into the courthouse, and she carried the letters to Reid's office in a grocery bag. The protesters couldn't fit the coffin in through the courthouse’s metal detectors. Inside, Morelli said she spoke briefly to Reid’s staff. They took the letters, she said, and indicated they would contact her.

Hearings also began in Congress today on a bill that would create a procedure to deal with trade deals with yes or no votes, without allowing amendments or filibusters.

A week ago, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters she “had a problem” with the lack of transparency behind the drafting of the TPP.

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