Why Were 1,253 People Arrested at the White House?

The arrest of 700 people on a bridge in New York is definitely newsworthy (although many protesters there were not trying to get arrested), but what people might not be aware of is that the largest number of civil disobedience arrests since the 1970s just happened this summer in D.C. over the tar sands issue when 1,253 people were arrested at the White House.

“Tar sands? What’s that?” a lot of my friends have been saying. A lot of highly educated, savvy people haven’t yet heard of this issue. Here’s what’s happening: President Obama’s administration is slated to make a decision this year regarding an expansion of the Keystone pipeline project, the Keystone XL. This pipeline would deliver oil derived from Canadian tar sands to a refinery in Texas for export to other countries.

Obtaining oil from tar sands is problematic because:

  • It involves tearing up a lot of forest to get at the sands. This forest is a good carbon sink for CO2 in the atmosphere, so removing the forest exacerbates global warming.
  • The Keystone XL pipeline is slated to be built over an aquifer that provides water to 30% of the U.S. populace, and the initial phase of this project has already has 15 oil leaks.
  • In addition, it’s energy-intensive to obtain oil this way, and the fuel does not burn as cleanly as oil obtained from oil wells.
  • The tar sands extraction area is not healthy for living creatures. Increased rates of cancer have been documented with people who live in tar sand areas that are already being developed.
  • A NASA climate expert has been cited as saying that if we go forward with tar sands oil, it’s essentially “game over” with respect to climate change.

More information can be found on tarsandsaction.org.

So what can one do locally? Cleveland Tar Sands Action is holding a rally and petition signing session Saturday, October 15 in Shaker Square at noon outside President Obama’s Cleveland-area campaign office. After the rally, we are meeting with staff to present the petition to let President Obama know that people are becoming more concerned and aware nationally on this issue. It is critical to make our voices heard to put pressure on the administration as already there have been allegations of corruption in the State Department regarding the Keystone XL project. We invite you to join us October 15th!

Kathy Smith, Volunteer
Cleveland Tar Sands Action 

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