Forty-eight climate activists representing themselves and various groups were arrested Wednesday outside the White House. (Photo via Flickr | Tar Sands Action)Forty-eight individuals were arrested outside the White House on Wednesday afternoon as they urged President Obama to take a strong stand on climate change by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline and embracing a clean energy future without fossil fuels.
Among the notable leaders involved in the civil disobedience were Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, which made news recently by declaring its leaders and membership would end an almost 120 year ban on participating in acts of civil disobedience. Large cheers went up in the gathered crowd of supporters as Brune was led away in handcuffs.
“For the first time in the Sierra Club’s 120-year history, we have joined the ranks of visionaries of the past and present to engage in civil disobedience, knowing that the issue at hand is so critical, it compels the strongest defensible action.” –Michael Brune, Sierra Club
“For the first time in the Sierra Club’s 120-year history, we have joined the ranks of visionaries of the past and present to engage in civil disobedience, knowing that the issue at hand is so critical, it compels the strongest defensible action,” said Brune prior to his arrest. “We cannot afford to allow the production, transport, export and burning of the dirtiest oil on Earth via the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama must deny the pipeline and take decisive steps to address climate disruption, the most significant issue of our time.”
Other notable arrests included environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr.; Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org; Julian Bond, civil rights leader and former president of the NAACP; and Daryl Hannah, an actress who has become well known for her climate activism from previous acts of civil disobedience in Washington and elsewhere.
After blocking the sidewalk in front of the White House—with some attaching themselves to the tall iron fence—and refusing to move when asked by Capitol Police, the activists were arrested one-by-one, handcuffed and led away.
“The threat to our planet’s climate is both grave and urgent,” said Julian Bond, who was among the last to be taken into custody. “Although President Obama has declared his own determination to act, much that is within his power to accomplish remains undone, and the decision to allow the construction of a pipeline to carry millions of barrels of the most-polluting oil on Earth from Canada’s tar sands to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. is in his hands. I am proud today to stand before my fellow citizens and declare, ‘I am willing to go to jail to stop this wrong.’ The environmental crisis we face today demands nothing less.”
“We really shouldn’t have to be put in handcuffs to stop KXL–our nation’s leading climate scientists have told us it’s dangerous folly, and all the recent Nobel Peace laureates have urged us to set a different kind of example for the world, so the choice should be obvious,” said 350.org founder Bill McKibben. “But given the amount of money on the other side, we’ve had to spend our bodies, and we’ll probably have to spend them again.”
Wednesday’s action was designed as a smaller but dramatic preface for a rally scheduled for Sunday that organizers say will bring many thousands of activists from all over the country to the White House gates to ask Obama to move “forward on climate”.