An Alaska environmentalist group made a bold statement at the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race ceremonial start on Saturday.


Alaska Rising Tide, the mission of which is to confront the root causes of climate change, hung a banner that said, “We’d rather be led by dogs,” from the EasyPark garage at the corner of Fourth Avenue and C Street. It could be seen by hundreds of Iditarod spectators. The banner included an image of the White House with an ExxonMobil flag on top.


“Our strategy here is to start conversation and let people know that one of the best ways to defeat the power of money is the power of people,” said Brandon Hill, a volunteer with Alaska Rising Tide.


He said the group is concerned about the future of climate change policy during President Donald Trump’s administration. Moreover, he said the appointment of former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state is concerning.


“ExxonMobil is responsible, largely, for the denial of climate science in this country. And that’s a problem,” Hill said. “We can’t have someone like Rex Tillerson in the White House and negotiating global climate science.”


The banner was up for about one hour before it was rolled up because the people holding it got cold, according to Hill. They were not ordered to remove it.


“We were cautious about how it was going to be received. We know we live in Alaska. We know that a lot of folks really love Trump and voted for Trump here,” Hill said, adding that the group did not aim to disrupt the race with the banner. “But it was overwhelmingly positive. We saw an enormous amount of people stopping and taking photos and smiling and laughing and showing their friends.”


Jim Crawford, the chair of Trump’s Alaska election campaign, said the banner was not an effective way to unite people of different political beliefs.


“It’s really sad to see people who lost the race be so embittered by that loss that they can’t be effective in building our state,” Crawford said. “What we really need to do know is build our jobs. Donald Trump will help us do that.”


He said whether or not people voted for Trump, they should be focused on coming together for the betterment of the country, rather than remaining divided.


“This game does not have to be mean,” Crawford said. “We need to build the jobs in this state. That’s really where my focus is going to be, and if there’s a call to arms to the Trump troops in this state, don’t forget we won by 14 percent. That was a pretty solid win — the best on the West Coast.”


Secretary of State Tillerson told Congress he believes in climate change. However, he has not disclosed the degree to which he believes humans are responsible.


ExxonMobil did not respond to a request for comment.


KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.


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