September 3 Press Release: "Movement being born"

News — the tar sands action team September 3, 2011 at 1:45 pm

WASHINGTON– The largest environmental civil disobedience in decades concluded at the White House this morning with organizers pledging to escalate a nationwide campaign to push President Obama to deny the permit for a new tar sands oil pipeline.

“Given yesterday’s baffling cave on ozone standards, the need for a fighting environmental movement has never been more clear,” said Bill McKibben, who spearheaded the protest. “That movement is being born right here in front of the White House and reverberating around the country.”

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has become the most important environmental decision facing President Obama before the 2012 election and sparked nationwide opposition, from Nebraska ranchers to former Obama campaigners. A petition with 617,428 names opposing the pipeline will be delivered to the White House today.

Over the course of the two-week sit-in 1,252 people were arrested, including top climate scientists, landowners from Texas and Nebraska, former Obama for America staffers, First Nations leaders from Canada, and notable individuals including Bill McKibben, former White House official Gus Speth, NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen, actor Daryl Hannah, filmmaker Josh Fox, and author Naomi Klein.

“Back home we are fighting to protect our land and water. This week, we decided to bring that fight to the President’s doorstep,” said Jane Kleeb, Director of BOLD Nebraska, who led a delegation of Nebraskans who were arrested this morning. “We are acting on our values and expect our President to act as well.”

McKibben also announced at the protest that the movement will continue organizing, with a Phase Two announcement within 48 hours. Click here to be the first to know details when they’re announced: www.tarsandsaction.org/next-steps

Protest organizers are already planning ways to capitalize on the surge of energy the sit-in has created. In a number of cities, people have already begun to visit Obama for America offices to tell the campaign they will volunteer and donate only after President Obama stands up to Big Oil and denies the Keystone XL permit. Along the pipeline route, groups are preparing to drive turnout to State Department hearings later this month. Thousands are expected to descend on Washington, DC for the final hearing on October 7.

Last week, nearly every major environmental group in the country signed on to a letter demanding President Obama deny the pipeline permit. “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,” wrote the groups in their letter.

Vice President Al Gore also added his support to the protest, writing, “the leaders of the top environmental groups in the country, the Republican Governor of Nebraska, and millions of people around the country—including hundreds of people who have bravely participated in civil disobedience at the White House—all agree on one thing: President Obama should block a planned pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. The tar sands are the dirtiest source of fuel on the planet.”

Many of the people arrested at the White House wore Obama 2008 buttons as they were taken away in handcuffs.

“We are not going to do President Obama the favor of attacking him,” said McKibben. “We are going to hold the Obama campaign to the standard it set in 2008. Denying this pipeline would send a jolt of electricity through the people that elected this president.”

Executive director of the 1.4 million-member Sierra Club, Michael Brune, warned of the consequences if President Obama approved Keystone XL: “We will see an enthusiasm deficit. We won’t see our members volunteering 20 or 25 or 30 hours a week. We won’t see the same passion and intensity.”

Courtney Hight, a former Youth Vote Director in Florida and White House Council on Environmental Quality staffer, now co-director of the Energy Action Coalition, said, “Young people mobilized in record numbers in 2008 to elect a leader they believed would fulfill his promise. Yesterday, I was arrested with other young voters to call on President Obama to fulfill his promise and stand up to Big Oil.”

The White House is receiving pressure from citizens north of the border, as well. Activists in Ottawa are planning a civil-disobedience protest on Parliament Hill this September 26.

“The Canadian government is acting as the global advertising agency of the tar sands oil industry,” said author and activist Naomi Klein, who was arrested Friday. “Canadians have come to appeal directly to President Obama, to demand that he stop this pipeline and make good on his 2008 election promises.”

The proposed 1,700 mile Keystone XL pipeline would carry dirty, tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. A rupture in the pipeline could cause a BP style oil spill in America’s heartland, over the source of fresh drinking water for 20 million people. NASA’s top climate scientist says that fully developing the tar sands in Canada would mean “essentially game over” for the climate.

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For more information, please visit tarsandsaction.org.

  1. Ina Warren says:

    Statement above reads “1252 Americans” arrested. Don’t forget that many who were arrested were Canadians, and did so at great risk to the passport travel. Does the 1252 include these blessed folk as well?

  2. Ellengunter says:

    So proud of us all!!!!!!!! Well done 1,252!

  3. Azoidie says:

    So proud of us. I was there today at the rally. 1252!!!! Let’s keep this going.

  4. Connor Hocking says:

    It was amazing being part of the rally today! For all of you who have been arrested over the last two weeks, I give you my sincerest praise and thanks- you’ve been an inspiration for myself and countless others all over the nation and beyond. You are my heroes.

    Mad love,

    Connor Hocking

  5. Betsy says:

    Blessings to all who participated. Know that each one of you represented hundreds, perhaps thousands, more who could not be there in body but were there with our hearts and spirits. May each one of you go home as the core of a new movement to protect the planet and our communities.

  6. Harold Hensel says:

    Martin Luther said: “Here I stand, I can do no other” and the reformation was on. He also said: “You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say”. Thanks all Tar Sand demonstraters and supporters. You are taking a stand for the environment and against the oppression of big oil. We can do no other! The “reformation” is on!

  7. Leslie says:

    Amazing, empowering day. Thanks to all the organizers, supporters, and especially to my fellow arrestees!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Do you have an estimate of how many people attended protest total?

  9. jesse says:

    this action had too much civil, and not enough disobedience.

  10. Ken_zubko says:

    if you want dirty oil try Iraqi oil, only 1.5 million victims so far!

  11. Stephen cleghorn says:

    As I sat in the back of the paddy wagon with a number of leaders from the environmental movement, they were in accord that all the papers they would ever write, all the studies they would ever publish, would not stop the despoliation of the earth and the ever more extreme forms of energy extraction. So they sat with their hands cuffed behind their backs in the hope of referencing and drawing upon a deeper form of struggle and conversation with our fellow citizens.

  12. Harold Hensel says:

    Congratulations Tar Sands demonstrators. You had the courage to take a stand. You have focused the attention of all those who yearn for liveable planet .You have given many more the courage to take a stand as well. You have created momentum and depending on the follow-up, you may have transitioned the momentum into a “movement”. I vote for Bill McKibben to be our leader. With a solid leader , I still believe an environmental “movement” is possible. Maybe a more modern name would be in order. Perhaps just calling it a cause or semething like that would be in order. I also think you have proven that there is a ‘base’ of conceerned people to consoladate into action. Now, keep the goals well defined, break down the tasks that need to be done and give everyone a piece of it to do. We have a tiger by the tail. Don’t let go!

  13. Harold Hensel says:

    Congratulations Tar Sands demonstrators. You had the courage to take a stand. You have focused the attention of all those who yearn for a liveable planet .You have given many more the courage to take a stand as well. You have created momentum and depending on the follow-up, you may have transitioned the momentum into a “movement”. I vote for Bill McKibben to be our leader. With a solid leader , I still believe an environmental “movement” is possible. Maybe a more modern name would be in order. Perhaps just calling it a cause or something like that would be in order. I also think you have proven that there is a ‘base’ of conceerned people to consoladate into action. Now, keep the goals well defined, break down the tasks that need to be done and give everyone a piece of it to do. We have a tiger by the tail. Don’t let go!

  14. Bill says:

    Thank you so much for your work and your action on this. Although I could not be there, your action was so important to me for the message it sent. The work of 350.org has been wonderful, but the state of the climate crisis is such that I feel climate activists MUST elevate their protest to non-violent resistance and arrest to gain momentum and recognition of the fervency with which we feel our government must act.

    Some of us did not perhaps travel to DC because it is so far. I do weigh the oil I would burn in traveling to DC from Seattle in my thinking… is there hypocrisy in traveling accross the country to make a statement on this?

    Many of us have things in our own states that need similar protests. Unnecessary highways, natural gas fracking, mountaintop removal. In the State of Washington we have a proposed coal terminal that would start to export coal from Cherry Point near Bellingham to China. If the US starts large-scale coal exports to China of Montana coal thru Washington what good are our efforts to stop the construction of coal plants in the US.

    I hope this protest grows to a broader effort for similar protests across the US, and not just this pipeline.

    Thanks again, Bill

  15. Kate says:

    Keep up the great work!! “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

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