About 50 people were arrested in a Keystone XL pipeline protest Friday, amid growing concern by environmentalists that the Obama administration will approve the project, which stretches 875 miles from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. Around 12:15 pm, approximately 70 protestors rushed the DC lobby of Environmental Resources Management, a consulting firm which produced a bulk of the State Department’s March report that did not conclude that the pipeline should be shut down for environmental reasons.
The crowd was a part of the “Summer Heat” campaign and led by members of Greenpeace, 350.org, and Walk for Our Grandchildren. Organizers of the event claimed that over a hundred walked from Camp David to Washington, a 60 mile trek, in opposition of the pipeline, which they say violates President Obama’s rule that “it does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” Once inside ERM’s office, six locked arms in metal pipes labeled “No KXL,” blocking the elevator doors. When asked to leave, those that did not wish to be arrested set up a protest outside, and watched about 50 of their colleagues taken into custody for unlawful entry. Police brought in bull cutters to cut off the metal arms.
“Hey! Obama! We don’t want no pipeline drama!” the protesters chanted, led by the rhythm of tom-tom drums, and a single megaphone. “Thank You! Thank You!” they cheered as their colleagues were escorted out in plastic zip ties. DC Police had three motorcycles and thirteen vehicles at the protest.
“They lied about their ties to over a dozen oil companies that would profit from the Keystone Pipeline being build,” said Zack Gerdes a 21-old Amherst student from Germantown, MD. “We strongly believe and know that the Keystone pipeline is a huge detriment to the environment and it’s going to exacerbate the problem of climate change.” In March, Mother Jones reported that an ERM employee who worked on the report had previously worked for the owner of Keystone.
“My future matters more than corporate greed,” said 14 year-old Anna Farlessyost from Mars Hill, North Carolina. She and her Dad Greg walked from Camp David to Washington, and Anna says her father knew he would get arrested for his actions. “He had that in mind as he came, and he’s ready to stand up for the planet.”
The protest was peaceful. “Our primary goal is protect first Amendment rights,” said Steve Sund, Commander of the Special Operations Division, for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
Other office workers in the building complained about the disruption. “I was already in the building in a conference meeting,” says Billy Dodd who works as an intern at an energy company in the building, but not at ERM. “I looked down and saw these junkies, sorry, these individuals, expressing their First Amendment right. Which they have a right to do, but when they start prohibiting businesses from doing their daily functions that’s when I have an issue.” He added, “What about my First Amendment Right to go to f****** work because I have a job?”
The protest will continue tomorrow from Malcolm X Park to Lafayette Park outside of the White House.