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Interview with 2 chapter activists in Washington for Keystone XL actions

I arrived in Washington, DC this morning. Maude Barlow will be joining me later this afternoon. We’re here to stand in solidarity with Americans demanding that Obama refuse to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

At a time when we are seeing unparalleled climate catastrophes around the world it is irresponsible to continue pushing greenhouse gas intensive tar sands development, especially when the world’s top climate scientists James Hansen of NASA – arrested at yesterday’s sit-in – has already said “the tar sands of Canada constitute a deadly threat to our planet. The US and Canada must agree not to develop them.” The Keystone XL would cross near communities and important drinking water sources including the Ogallala Aquifer which provides drinking water to 82 percent of the people who live within its boundaries. It is being strongly opposed by residents near the route including ranchers and Native American communities. For more on this, see these accounts.

The Keystone XL pipeline is the focus of a powerful two weeks of non violent civil disobedience actions outside the White House that is sending Obama a clear message – don’t approve the pipeline, he has this power. I witnessed this action today, when over 50 people crossed the street from the nearby park and sat outside of the gates of the White House holding banners saying “no tar sands XL pipeline” and “we sit-in against the pipeline, Obama, will you stand up to big oil?” Included in today’s arrests was a familiar face, Kill Bill actress Daryl Hannah.

Chatting to participants prior to the action I also ran into two other familiar faces, Mary Nokleby and Reynold Reimer of Calgary Alberta (captured in this picture). They are both members of the Council of Canadians and the Calgary chapter. I took some time to hear about their experiences, they’ve been in Washington since last Thursday and took part in the sit-in yesterday.

I was compelled to share their stories, some of the many narratives I’m beginning to hear here.

How did you find out about www.tarsandsaction.org?

(Mary) We first heard about it via twitter, a tweet from Naomi Klein including a link to the invite letter that Maude Barlow also signed.

Why did you decide to come?

(Mary): We decided to come after reading the speech Tim DeChristopher’s gave outside of the Court, after being found guilty [Mary is referring to climate activist Tim DeChristopher being found guilty for interfering with an oil and gas auction held at the end of the Bush administration, he is facing two years in prison, read his inspiring speech here]. Knowing that facing two years in prison isn’t stopping him and hearing his plea for others to join him, at a time of eco threat, in an action of love with the intention of growing our resistance and movement; we knew we had to go. We live in Alberta. We know about the pipeline and the tar sands. We believe James Hansen.”

What happened yesterday?

(Mary) There were 140 people arrested yesterday including James Hansen and us. It was very orderly, we chanted inspiring slogans – hear our voices, keep your promise, build clean power. They arrested the women first, I was number 46, Reynold was number 139. Reynold wore a tie with the Canadian flag, he is in pictures now – man with Canadian flag tie!

(Reynold) Our hands were kept behind our backs, but the cops were civil about it. There was a lady with a cane, they didn’t cuff her.

(Mary) We rode to the jail singing, I taught them the Canadian version of this land is our land. (Reynold) When we got to the station we sat in the hot van for a while and waited. When we were inside they cut our plastic cuffs, we waited in line and paid a fee, they took our addresses and money and we were done.

Why is this important; why is it significant to you?

(Reynold) We’ve been on the fringes of the anti tar sands movement in Alberta, we have attended action camps, we’ve read Nikiforuk’s book, we are convinced the tar sands are unsustainable and hurting our democracy. We are here because we want to take part in action. We are here because we hope this is the beginning, that this will continue to grow and expand. We need to build our movement.

(Mary) It is good to be here and stand with Americans that we share a common interest with. We live on one planet, borders aren’t going to be respected by climate change, we need to work together.

Are you considering joining the September 26th action in Ottawa against the tar sands

(Both) Yes, we want to come.