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UPDATE: #Surround action brings hope of stopping KXL

More than 12,000 people gathered in Lafayette Square this afternoon to #Surround the White House and demand that US President Barack Obama not issue the permit needed for the Keystone XL pipeline to proceed.

By yesterday about 6,000 had been expected for today and it was thought that this would be enough to meet the audacious plan to send a clear message to Obama by circling the White House once.

But with 12,000 present the 1.6-kilometre perimeter around the White House was actually circled three times!

The Council of Canadians was present in Washington to be with our American friends opposed to the pipeline, to join in an effort to defend water, the climate and Indigenous rights from corporate greed, and to make the point that the Harper government does not speak for Canadians as it continues to press Obama to approve KXL.

Council or Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow addressed the thousands gathered back in Lafayette Square after taking part in the action.

In her speech, she stated, “I want to say to you here today that the Canadian government does not speak for Canadians. Prime Minister Harper has said the decision President Obama has to make is a ‘no brainer’ and the Canadian Ambassador to the US, Gary Doer, has become the chief salesman for the energy industry. But polls tell us Canadians want to move away from a fossil fuel future and stand with the millions of Americans for a just transition to a sustainable energy future.”

Barlow also did interviews with Sun Media, Canadian Press, Politico, Postmedia News, CBC/ Radio Canada, and CKCU Radio – and so we are hopeful that this story will be spread to many Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

She wrote later this afternoon in her Huffington Post blog, “The atmosphere here today was joyful, the speeches powerful, the mood hopeful. …I return home now filled with hope. And not just about the possibility of winning this fight. I am filled with hope at the number and diversity of people I met today and continue to meet around the world and the coalitions and networks we are building.”

Last night, Tar Sands Action, the main organizers for today, Tweeted, “Bill McKibben takes the mic: ‘when we started, we had a 1000:1 shot, now we’re in a real fight’.” We believe him to be right and that the odds are getting better everyday.

Doer has repeatedly made the statement to the media that if Obama ignores the noise from the protesters and recognizes the merits of the pipeline, KXL will be approved.

As we arrive back in Ottawa at this hour, there is genuine cause for hope that when Obama makes his decision he will disregard ‘the noise’ from both Harper and Doer and make the right decision based on ‘the merits’ of environmental protection.

And we trust that this win would give us the momentum and solidarity needed to fight the other proposed pipelines, stop the expanding destructiveness of the tar sands, and further the imperatives of climate and water justice and respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples.