It is now day five of a two week-long protest of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, and approximately 275 people have been arrested for their participation in what is being called the largest act of civil disobedience in the environmental movement’s recent history.
The sit-in is a strategic event designed to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of the Keystone XL, a pipeline that transports tar sands oil, a particularly dirty and corrosive type of heavy crude, from Canada to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.
Bill McKibben, renowned climate activist and one of the protest’s organizers, was arrested on Saturday. McKibben and others were charged with “failure to obey a lawful order” and taken to Anacostia Station to be processed.
From behind bars, McKibben issued the following statement:
“Hello everyone! We don’t need sympathy, we need company. It’s clear to us that police were hoping to deter this action, and it’s equally clear to us the opposite will be the result.
“I’m looking forward to seeing everybody over the next two weeks. It has been a little hot here in central cell block, but not as hot as it will be if we don’t stop this project. People here have been in good spirits, and there has been a great deal of learning. We are thinking ahead to this weekend to share stories about Dr. King and freedom movement.
“Even though uncomfortable, this experience has given us a greater sense of that part of history. Come on in, the water is fine.”
McKibben and the others originally believed that they would be able to pay a $100 fine and get out of jail the same day, however the the US Park Police decided to hold the protesters for 48 hours.
As another 56 people headed to jail today, leaders of groups as diverse as Greenpeace and the Environmental Defense Fund told the president, “there is not an inch of daylight between our policy position on the Keystone XL pipeline, and those of the protesters being arrested daily outside the White House.”
In a letter released Wednesday, these groups made it clear they counted on President Obama to take decisive action to block the pipeline. “We expect nothing less,” they said, describing the pipeline battle as “perhaps the biggest climate test you face between now and the election” and adding that denying the permit would trigger a “surge of enthusiasm from the green base that supported you so strongly in the last election.”
The leaders cited dangers to the climate, the risks of disastrous spills and leaks, and the economic damage that will come from continued dependence on fossil fuel in their letter, concluding, “this is a terrible project.”
The protest in Washington, D.C. is scheduled to continue until September 3rd. Oil Change International is currently collecting donations that will be used to reimburse activists directly for expenses relating to the protests, including travel, lodging, and legal fees. Please click here if you’d like to contribute.
Image Credit: Flickr – tarsandsaction