“WE SHALL OVERCOME” - ACCOUNT OF AN ARREST AT THE WHITE HOUSE TAR SANDS ACTION
"Sir, step forward please.”
A buff mustachioed officer of the DC Park Police motioned me to come closer. I’ll never forget his next four words, “You are under arrest.” He then told me to turn around and snapped thick plastic bands around my wrists.
I was the third-to-last of 59 participants in civil disobedience earlier today to be arrested at the White House. We were taking nonviolent direct action in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which would bring tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the US Gulf Coast. Aside from the danger this pipeline would pose to sources of drinking water, rural and indigenous peoples, and wildlife, if this carbon were to enter the atmosphere it would be game over for climate.
Estimates place the tar sands contribution to CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere at 600 parts per million (ppm), so this pipeline is kind of a big deal. For reference, 350 ppm is the concentration at which human life on Earth developed. We’re currently somewhere between 385 and 395 ppm CO2, and steadily climbing.
After each of us was pulled from the rest of group lined up along the sidewalk, we were led into a small tent and then loaded into a paddy wagon to be transported to the Anacostia branch of the Park Police for further processing. I was loaded into the last truck along with Jerome from New Jersey and Bishop from Virginia. To say we were cramped would be an understatement. Imagine bouncing around in the back of a mobile toaster. Then imagine having your hands behind your back, and you’ll get a sense of our experience.
I was first on the transport so I had a view out of the front of the vehicle through the metal mesh between myself and the driver. As we wove through the streets of DC behind our motorcycle escort past the White House, through the Mall beside the Washington Monument, and across the Anacostia River, I wondered what the tourists were thinking. What’s all this ruckus? Who are these criminals being transported across town? I could see them turning their heads along the sidewalks as they heard the whine of the sirens coming down the street. I chuckled to myself. If only they knew that behind the windowless walls of the truck sat a recent college graduate, an environmental engineer, and a lawyer who’d all been demonstrating at the White House only moments before. We’re doing this for you, I thought, and we’re doing this for each other.
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