Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Protesters continue White House sit-in against pipeline for tar sands oil

Article and photos by Kate Flynn*

Actress Daryl Hannah addresses an assembled group of protesters near the White House on Tuesday, Aug. 30, the eleventh day of a sit-in against the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed project that would funnel crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to terminals in the Gulf Coast. Hannah was reportedly one of those arrested during the sit-in. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Kate Flynn)

WASHINGTON, DC -- Dozens of activists gathered across the street from the White House Tuesday morning to prepare for the eleventh day of protest against the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed project that would funnel tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to terminals in the Gulf Coast.

"We’re asking the president to do something that is entirely within his power," said Bill McKibben, an environmental author involved in organizing the effort, as he addressed assembled protesters. "All he has to do is not sign this permit and this pipeline can’t be built."

Police have made 706 arrests outside the White House since Aug. 20. Activists and others opposing the pipeline are concerned that carbon emissions from the process of extracting petroleum from the tar sands will contribute to global climate change. They are also concerned about an environmental threat in the form of a pipeline rupture.

"I think that it’s important that we show Obama the seriousness of clean energy and how much we want it now, for our future and for future generations," said Rebecca Ortiz, a student activist from Virginia. "The Keystone XL pipeline is a violation of our right to clean water."

During the Aug. 30 sit-in against the Keystone XL pipeline, at the White House, young activists, from left, Rebecca Ortiz, Emma Peterson, and Nathaly Agosto Filion practice a protest song. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Kate Flynn)

"We U.S. citizens need and want to be free from this hideously destructive fossil fuel dependence," stated actress Daryl Hannah as she addressed those assembled. "If President Obama rejects the lobbyists’ influences and does the right thing by the citizens, then we will be free so that the money and jobs can go towards safe, clean, regenerative, community-based U.S. energy and fuel."

Hannah is known for her roles in such films as Blade Runner, Splash and Kill Bill. CNN later reported Hannah was arrested during the sit-in.

Many activists saw the struggle as a personal one that would have a direct impact on their quality of life.

"My son," Suzie DeBrosse of Vermont replied when asked what her reason for protesting was. "To get a healthy and clean environment for the next generations."

Suzie DeBrosse of Vermont holds a protest sign depicting her son. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Kate Flynn)

Ben Gotschall, a spokesperson for Tar Sands Action, organizers of the sit-in, also spoke to the crowd at the protest on Aug. 30.

"Originally that was all it was about -- not in my backyard, not in my drinking water," Gotschall said. "But as I learned more about this…I realized this is something evil that we had to stop."

Tar Sands Action spokesperson Ben Gotschall addresses an assembled group of protesters. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Kate Flynn)

The protest has already seen solidarity from religious leaders and NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, a leading expert on climate change, who was arrested during the protest outside the White House on Monday, Aug. 29.

The New York Times reported that the pipeline is expected to open in 2013 unless delayed by lawsuits or other challenges.

Editor's Notes: Guest reporter Kate Flynn is a graduate student in journalism at American University in Washington, D.C. She is a graduate of Hancock High School and Beloit College. Kate also worked as a journalism intern for both Keweenaw Now and the L'Anse Sentinel in 2010.

Visit tarsandsaction.org for more updates on the protest.

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