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48 Arrested at Keystone Pipeline Protest as Sierra Club Lifts 120-Year Ban on Civil Disobedience

The action came before a rally planned for Sunday on Washington’s National Mall, which organizers have dubbed "the largest climate rally in history."

Actress Daryl Hannah being arrest protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.
Photo Credit: Democracy Now!


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Forty-eight environmental activists were arrested Wednesday in front of the White House as part of an ongoing protest calling on the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed 1,700-mile pipeline would deliver tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in Texas. The action came before a rally planned for Sunday on Washington’s National Mall, which organizers have dubbed "the largest climate rally in history."

Among those arrested on Wednesday were two top leaders from the Sierra Club: the group’s executive director, Michael Brune, and President Allison Chin.The protest marked the first time the Sierra Club has engaged in civil disobedience in its 120-year history.

Others arrested included civil rights leader Julian Bond, Bill McKibben of  350.org,NASA climate scientist James Hansen, lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and actress Daryl Hannah. They were charged with failure to disperse and obey lawful orders, and released on $100 bond each. This is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Julian Bond.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.: I think President Obama is going to kill the pipeline.

INTERVIEWER: Why do you say that?

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.: Because I think it’s the right thing to do, and I think he knows that. And I think he—you know, I think he has a strong moral core, and I think John Kerry does, too. And I think, ultimately, he would not do something that is—that is this catastrophic and irresponsible and reckless.

JULIAN BOND: This is a decision that affects all Americans, and we want to make sure he does the right thing, which is to say no to the pipeline. It’s a great deal for Canada, great deal for Mexico; doesn’t do much for the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: That was former chair of the NAACP, Julian Bond; before that, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The protest outside the White House came one day after President Obama addressed climate change during his State of the Union.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct—I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go now to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by two of the protesters, now out of jail, who were arrested yesterday outside the White House. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, his most recent book is called  Coming Clean: Breaking America’s Addiction to Oil and Coal. And we’re joined by Daryl Hannah, the actress and activist, who was previously arrested in Texas in October for protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.

We welcome you both to  Democracy Now! Let’s begin with Michael Brune. This is historic for your organization, Michael. In its 120-year history, you are the first leader of the organization to get arrested in a civil disobedience. Why?

MICHAEL BRUNE: Well, first, thanks for having me on the show.

And it might sound a little surprising that an organization like the Sierra Club, that’s been around for so long and has been a part of so many important fights, that it’s the first time we do civil disobedience. But we look at this project, the tar sands pipeline, and it’s a boondoggle. It’s such a—it would contribute to such a climate disaster that we realize we have to use every single tool of democracy in order to fight this thing. We’ll fight it in the courts. We’ll fight it in statehouses and here in the Beltway, in the streets. But we realize that we have to do every single thing that we can to make sure that instead of putting $7 billion into a dirty oil pipeline, that we’re investing in clean energy instead.

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