Why the Sierra Club Lifted Its Ban on Civil Disobedience to Protest Keystone XL Pipeline

In an act of civil disobedience against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from the tar sands of Canada to refineries in Texas, 48 protesters were arrested Wednesday for blocking the sidewalk in front of the White House. Among those arrested were the actress Daryl Hannah, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his son, Conor Kennedy, civil rights leader Julian Bond, environmentalist Bill McKibben, and Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, whose participation marked the end of the organization’s 120-year prohibition against civil disobedience. At the protest, we spoke with Brune to find out why the pipeline pushed the group to break this long-standing tradition.


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“This particular project — Keystone XL pipeline — is so horrendous, it’s so wrong, and it’s being proposed at such an important time that we don’t want to leave any tool on the table,” Brune told us shortly before his arrest, saying that the pipeline would “guarantee that we’re locked into the most carbon-intensive fuel source on the planet for the next half-century.”

Brune also explains the significance of the pipeline in this recent post on TomDispatch, as well as on his own Sierra Club blog post about the protest. A major rally for climate action, organized by the Sierra Club, 350.org and the Hip Hop Caucus, is planned for this Sunday at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

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