Washington, DC - This past weekend, over one thousand young people converged on Washington, D.C, to protest the proposed construction of the controversial Keystone KL pipeline. These are the people that climate change will most directly affect, and they wanted President Obama to hear their concerns. We hope he was listening, as the weekend’s events, dubbed “XL Dissent” proved to be quite powerful. After all, the students and activists brought their urgent message right to the front door of the White House.
On Saturday, students poured into the Thurgood Marshall Building on Georgetown University’s campus to engage in a Divestment Meet-Up. The building filled up continuously throughout the day as students discussed the power of pushing divestment in fossil fuel companies on universities across the nation.
A group of students designed banners, signs, and creative hazardous material suits to be used in the action the next day.
Following the meet-up, organizers of the XL Dissent weekend began several training sessions for the main focus of the weekend, a massive civil disobedience action at the White House. Students received training on how the action would be carried out.
On Saturday night, Wisconsin’s Overpass Light Brigade (OLB) made an appearance on Pennsylvania Avenue, where they collectively held a lighted message in front of the White House to help kick-off the next day’s action. They were joined by OLB – Chicago, as well as two members of the MICATS ((Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands).
Sunday morning, students and other supporters showed up at campus of Georgetown University to rally before marching over two miles to the White House.
At the completion of the rally a massive crowd had formed and the lead banners made their way off campus en route to the White House.
On the way to the White House the march made a stop in front of Secretary of State John Kerry’s home, where an oil spill was laid in down on the street in front of his home. Kerry and Obama have the final say on whether or not the pipeline in approved.
Once the march arrived at Presidents Park, across the street from the White House several speakers talked about the importance of stopping the pipeline, including Chris Wahmhoff of the MICATS, who spoke about three women pipeline activists in Kalamazoo, Michigan facing 2-3 years in prison, for peacefully disrupting an Enbridge pipeline there.
After the rally, students armed with zip ties made there way over to the White House fence. The students locked their hands to the fence, while other activists in front of the zip-tied protestors laid down another oil slick. Those wearing the student designed hazmat suits walked onto the oil slick, where they collapsed to the ground, simulating the horrors of endless pipeline spills resulting from unprecedented amounts of toxic tar sands.
Police started to barricade in the protestors and declared that anyone positioned inside the barricades would be subject to arrest. Each announcement was met with cheering and chanting exemplifying the students’ belief in what they were doing. Five warnings to vacate were announced over police bullhorn and after a long standoff the first woman was asked to stand and was arrested.
The arrests continued through the afternoon and well into the cold and rainy evening until 398 student activists were arrested. The police were very deliberate with the arrests, making sure to take considerable time to arrest each student. One after another proud, smiling students were handcuffed and hauled away in police vehicles, as well as city buses to be processed. It was very apparent that each and every one knew they were doing the right thing and had zero qualms with being arrested for their conviction. At 8:15, 350.org posted the following Tweet.
Most organizers were expecting a few hundred to show up, but none expected the large group that finally showed up in DC to express their opposition to the pipeline and were willing to risk arrest in doing so. Whether President Obama received the message remains to be seen, but the youth of this country are clearly not willing to continue along the same unsustainable path. Thanks to all who made the journey to make your feelings known.
See more photos from the two days of actions below.
XL Dissent training and divestment meet-up photos can be found here.
Sunday civil disobedience action at White House can be found here.
Overpass Light Brigade visit to the White House can be found here.