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Obama greeted by supporters, polite protesters in Anchorage

Two groups politely rallied in downtown Anchorage Monday with one goal in mind: getting the president's attention.

About 75 people gathered at a protest on the Delaney Park Strip organized by environmental groups to oppose Royal Dutch Shell's Arctic drilling program.

Another 30 attended an Alaska Democratic Party rally to welcome the president. Led by party executive director Kay Brown beating an Alaska Native drum, the group marched to the Park Strip, eventually bound for the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center to continue celebrating the president's arrival.

But along the way, there was polite pushback as they crossed paths with the Greenpeace-organized "Rally to Confront the Glacial Pace of Political Action."

Shirley Schneider, who has lived in Alaska since 1962, held a sign at the rally with a power plant suffocating the Earth with the phrase "You're making our earth sick."

"I don't understand (why Obama approved Shell's Arctic drilling permit)," Schneider said. "I agree with him on most issues, but I don't agree with him on this."

Organizers of the Shell protest hoped to bring awareness of Alaska issues to leaders attending the GLACIER conference at the Dena'ina Center, within sight of the Park Strip.

Protesters asked for selfies with men in polar bear costumes. Others took pictures of the "Polar Profiteer," a mock drilling rig made of oil drums lampooning Shell's Polar Pioneer.

Some of the Democrats even folded into the Shell protest rally. Rep. Andy Josephson was one of the Democrats who stood watching the Shell rally. A supporter of the president, he himself couldn't reconcile the Obama administration's decision to allow drilling in the Arctic, he said.

"It's hard to be a cheerleader for something the state won't see any revenues from," he said.

Both groups secured permits to rally on the Park Strip, according to municipal special events coordinator CB Stewart. Stewart said several other groups attempted to gain permits on the same day, but were unable to organize in time. He said at least one group with a protest permit had canceled.

That group was the Alaska chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political action agency.

State director Jeremy Price said the group canceled its rally after it became clear that it was "too tough to pull off last-minute" with road closures and other restrictions in downtown Anchorage.

"It was just kind of a cluster," Price said.

But counter-protesters were nowhere in sight throughout the day, nor were many attendees from the GLACIER convention -- except for members of the press.

Alaska Dispatch News reporter Nathaniel Herz contributed to this story.

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