Polar bear protester trailing President Obama during Hawaii vacation
KAILUA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The polar bear protester who's been trailing President Obama during his Hawaii vacation took off his mask Tuesday and spoke about his efforts to oppose a controversial oil pipeline thousands of miles away from the islands.
Bill Snape, 49, is an environmental lawyer with the Center for Biological Diversity in Washington, DC, which sent him to Hawaii to wear a polar bear costume with a message.
"We've been all over the country trying to remind the president: 'Say no to Keystone,'" Snape said.
The proposed Keystone pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada all the way to Texas, is opposed by environmentalists.
They claim it would "Melt the arctic habitat, contribute to global warming and ultimately lead me, the polar bear, the extinction. It's a very bad, dirty project," Snape said.
Supporters of the pipeline said the project would mean greater U.S. energy independence and new jobs.
Snape showed up in polar bear costume Monday at Kailua's Mid Pacific Country Club, where President Obama spent several hours golfing and even shouted "Hey polar bear" when he saw him.
Snape, who teaches law at American University law school, also was at the University of Hawaii Sunday, following the president and entourage as they watched a basketball game.
As he spoke to Hawaii News Now on a sidewalk in Kailua at early afternoon Tuesday, people surrounded the bear and wanted to take photos with the bear, who's called Frostpaw.
"Frostpaw's a magnet. People want to have their photo with Frostpaw. People want to touch the fur, touch my head. That's great. That's what it's all about. That elicits a conversation and questions. We talk about the Keystone pipeline," Snape said.
Snape spent part of Thanksgiving week in his polar bear getup in front of the White House.
He's spending the holidays in Hawaii to trail the president, leaving his family -- including two teenage sons -- back home in the nation's capital.
Asked if he's happy the president doesn't spend his Christmases in Chicago, Snapes laughed than said, "Darn right, it's been a lot of fun, although a little hot. At least, Chicago would be more temperate for me."
He'll remain on Oahu until Jan. 6, the same day that President Obama is scheduled to depart the islands.
Snapes is getting help this week from University of Hawaii student Lisa Grandinetti, an economic and ethnic studies major from Mililani. Grandinetti is driving Snapes around town, helping him into and out of his bear costume and directing him where to walk, since his vision is obscured by the bear outfit.