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Over 1,200 young people take part in XL Dissent protest; 398 arrested in the largest act of civil disobedience at the White House in a generation
Washington, DC — The largest youth civil disobedience at the White House in a generation took place this afternoon to protest the Keystone XL pipeline, with the Park Police reporting that 398 students were arrested after a march and rally with more than 1,200 participants.
“Obama was the first President I voted for, and I want real climate action and a rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Nick Stracco, a Senior at Tulane University and one of the lead organizers of XL Dissent. “The people that voted him into office have made it absolutely clear what we want, and that’s to reject Keystone XL.”
The day began with a rally at Georgetown University. Students then visited Secretary of State John Kerry’s house, where they unfurled a giant mock oil spill on the street and called on him to push President Obama to reject the pipeline. The march continued to the White House, where after a short rally in Lafayette Park, students handcuffed themselves to the White House fence and created another giant human oil spill on the sidewalk.
“An entire movement has thrown itself into in this Keystone fight, from local frontline groups to big national green organizations,” said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. “But this weekend shows the power and bravery of some of the most crucial elements: young people, and activists who understand the centrality of environmental justice.”
Park Police took over four hours to arrest the massive crowd at the White House. Students are being taken to a police facility in Anacostia, Maryland, where they are expected to receive a fine and be released with a citation.
In a recent poll, 70% of young voters said that support for action on climate change will affect who they vote for, and 73% said they’d vote against a politician who wasn’t addressing the problem. An overwhelming 80% of young people support the President taking action to address climate change, suggesting that a pipeline rejection based on climate impacts would be widely applauded.
“All Americans deserve to live safe and healthy lives that aren’t shadowed by worsening super storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires brought on by dirty fossil fuels. And it’s America’s youth who have the greatest stake in the Keystone XL tar sands decision,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune, in a statement released on Friday. “Today the Sierra Club and our 2.4 million members and supporters stand in solidarity with the youth who are marching in Washington, D.C. to tell the president to embrace clean energy and reject tar sands once and for all.”
Many of the students taking part in the protest are doing so out of a desire to stand in solidarity with communities that are facing the direct impacts of the fossil fuel industry and the climate crisis, from indigenous communities living near the tar sands to ranchers and farmers who are facing off against pipelines and fracking in their backyards.
“I come from Morocco, and we face a lot of problems because of climate change–people are actually praying to get rain,” said Mariam Khoudari, a student at Bryn Mawr college who is attending the rally. “I’m here because the impact of Keystone XL would make those prayers unanswerable.”
Today’s civil disobedience could be a sign of things to come if President Obama moves forward with approving Keystone XL. More than 86,000 people have signed an online “pledge of resistance” committing to engage in civil disobedience to stop the pipeline.
XL Dissent is being organized by a network of young people across the country who have come together over email and social media. The action is also being supported by organizations such as 350.org and the Energy Action Coalition.
Hi-res photos can be found here:
A Politico slideshow of photos from the protest can be seen here: