Anti-pipeline protesters outside the White House on November 18, 2012. Photo by Nick Myers
by Nick Myers, Nation DC intern
During his first term, demonstrations outside the White House helped prompt President Barack Obama to delay approval of the Keystone Pipeline—and they returned this weekend to remind him of their opposition.
The protest was led by Bill McKibben as part of 350.org’s “Do The Math” tour. Around 3,000 people rallied in Freedom Plaza outside the White House, according to organizers, before taking to the streets on a march that surrounded the building. Demonstrators carried a black, 500-foot tube emblazoned with “STOP THE XL PIPELINE”—the same one brought during the protests last November—to the president’s doorstep while chanting “Hey, Obama! We don’t want no climate drama.”
“For the second time in thirteen months we encircled with White House with people,” McKibben said after the march. “We did not forget.”
Though climate change played an almost non-existent role in the 2012 election cycle, the battle may heat up as the president enters his second term.
Proponents of the Keystone XL project—which would bring dirty tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska and then the Texas coast—are pushing Obama from the other direction. A bipartisan group of eighteen senators, fronted by Republican John Hoeven of North Dakota and Max Baucus of Montana, delivered a letter to Obama on November 16 that urges the president to move forward and approve the pipeline.
But mass citizen action is underway to combat the Beltway pressure. Already, 350.org, the Sierra Club and other environmentalist organizations have protest actions planned, including a nationwide campaign to convince college campuses and others to divest from fossil fuel companies and a major rally in Washington, DC, on Presidents Day.
“Part of me is constantly being reminded that we should not have to be here this afternoon,” McKibben said, lamenting the immense financial backing that the fossil fuel industry has to promote its agenda. “If the world worked the way it was supposed to, we wouldn’t have solved the problem but we’d be well on our way.”