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Activist under arrest: Protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline

By Jared GarfinkelSpecial to the Chronicle

In Washington, D.C. on March 2, I was arrested with 398 students from all over the United States while protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline. I stood on behalf of Hofstra in solidarity, because I want to create political will to deny the fossil fuel industry its plan to profit from the destruction of the planet.

I took the bus down to D.C. on Saturday morning where I met with students from Fordham University. We made signs to prepare for the march and then attended a training session on civil disobedience.

Afterward, I met with more students from Bates College and walked to the church where we stayed overnight on pews with a narrow seat cushions until our 6 a.m. wake-up song.

I walked with a student from Vassar College to the rally at Georgetown University where the march began. On the way to the White House, we passed Secretary of State John Kerry’s house and left a mock oil spill on his street in the form of a black tarp.

When we reached the park outside the White House, we heard speeches from a First Nations indigenous people in Canada whose land would be crossed by several pipeline proposals, front line communities in Tennessee whose water was poisoned by oil spills along the existing Keystone pipeline, and 13- and 14-year-old activists from Colorado.

Then 250 of us zip-tied ourselves to the fence and some of us “died” in a mock oil spill on the sidewalk. We had been trained to remain seated or standing when the police threatened us with arrest.

The Keystone Pipeline is a proposal for a 1,700-mile section of pipe that would carry crude oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, through Midwestern states to oil refineries in Texas. Crude oil takes more energy and chemicals (and therefore carbon) to refine than other forms of petroleum. It has been called the dirtiest fossil fuel on Earth.

Yet, the State Department released a report parroting the fossil fuel industry’s position, which is that the Keystone XL will not exacerbate climate change and the Alberta tar sands will be developed regardless of whether the proposal is passed. In fact, the pipeline contributes to the momentum of the fossil fuel industry at a time when it is in our national interest to build renewable energy, not oil pipelines.

Civil disobedience is a historical tool used by activists who put their bodies on the line for what they know to be right. I was privileged to have the resources to attend this rally and the support from the legal team that choreographed the arrest.

We were arrested and given tickets for a violation of our protest permit in an effort to bring attention to the most important issue of our generation. The deteriorating condition of the environment requires that each of us decide which level of responsibility we are prepared to take during this volatile time.


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