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Live from DC: Thousands Converge for Capitol Climate Action Against Dirty Coal [Updated]

Today's action in DC shows that there is a new urgency to the climate change movement. Read here for the latest news and photos about the protest.
 
 
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Editor's Note: This page will be updated throughout the day with the latest news and photos from the Capitol Climate Actionin Washington, DC. For more about the action, you can visit Capitol Climate Action.

Photos are credit of Stephanie Pistello.

UPDATE 5:15 EST by Jeff Biggers and Stephanie Pistello

The Capitol Power Plant's days of coal are over.

It's been the waiting game here: Since 2 pm, over 2,000 activists have blockaded the five main gates to the Capitol Power Plant. The rather larger police turnout is impressive; clad in their best stocking caps, they dot the chain fence like lamp-posts, taking in the gregarious march with a bit of interest and fascination. No attempt at any arrests have been made. The crowd is controlled and peaceful; there is a festive atmosphere, young and old, all bundled up and dancing to keep warm on this crystal clear but chilly afternoon.

The only clouds now, in this blue sky, are the coal-fired ones billowing from the Capitol plant. At 5 pm, the Capitol Climate Action hailed the historic action and dispersed.

 

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It has been a fascinating and powerful day. Communities from across the country have come together in an amazing arm-to-arm support on the picket line. On stage in front of the main gate, tribal members from Michigan, New Mexico and Arizona have testified to the disastrous impact of coal mining in their communities, and coal-fired waste and mercury emissions in their water.

Robert Kennedy, Jr., with his son and daughter at his side, made an impassioned case against the criminal elements of mountaintop removal policies and poorly enforced environmental abuse by willing coal companies. Kennedy recalled his own father's campaign to help end strip mining in the 1960s, citing the ultimate effect of mining on destroying local economies and the union movement.

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Kennedy called on Capitol Hill to recognize the "true costs of coal."

Kennedy was hopeful, though, saying a "sea-change" had occurred with the new Obama administration.

Kennedy, like all protesters, readied themselves for arrest.

The End of Nature author Bill McKibben declared he had been waiting 20 years for this moment, dating back to his groundbreaking book on climate change.

A series of chants of 350 -- the silver bullet number of parts per million of CO2 -- erupted.

Kathy Mattea, the Grammy-award singer, beautiful weaved an old Jean Ritchie song, "Blackwater," with other Appalachian ballads on coal.

Judy Bonds, whose Coal River Mountain in West Virginia is literally being detonated daily by explosives, told the crowd: "I don't mind being poor, I don't mind being made fun of, but I do mind being blasted and poisoned."

Dr. James Hansen called on the Obama administration and the nation's legislators to look at the root cause of climate destabilization, and reminded the crowd of the urgency of the moment. Hansen sounded the alarm on CO2 emissions over 25 years ago.

Only steps away from actress Daryl Hannah, the legendary Larry Gibson, who has spent 25 years on a journey to stop mountaintop removal along his home of Kayford Mountain in West Virginia, has been standing on the line of arrest for hours. Like McKibben, this historic moment has been long in waiting. When Gibson began his crusade to end mountaintop removal two decades ago, he recalled barely being able to draw a crowd of two.

While the coal industry may have invested over $40 million dollars in fictitious "clean coal" ads, the stunning array of banners and placards -- Clean Coal is Like Dry Water, Coal is the Mother's Liver, Topless Mountains Are Obscene, Coal is Dirty, Power Past Coal -- drove home the dirty reality of coal and coal-fired plants today.