Quakers were among protestors who faced arrest after blocking a street by the White House yesterday, the home of the US president Barack Obama. The Earth Quaker Action Team were at the protest to send a message to Barack Obama not to support the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and to request him to address the climate crisis.
Ahead of the action Philadelphia Quaker Eileen Flanagan explained why she was taking part: “As I explained to my children, I’m willing to risk arrest for the first time in my life for them and for the future of all children—from Alberta to Appalachia to Africa. The urgency of climate change hit home when I visited southern Africa and heard how food production has been devastated by new and unpredictable weather patterns. I am now convinced that the most important thing I can do as a citizen of the United States is to stop extreme extraction here. Earth Quaker Action Team is campaigning to get PNC Bank to stop funding mountaintop removal coal mining, and we are proud to stand with our allies fighting the Keystone XL pipeline, which is another example of the reckless resource grab that threatens us all.”
Earth Quaker Action Team executive director Amy Ward Brimmer added: “American Quakers have historically been at the forefront of civil and human rights issues, and climate change is no exception. Spurred by our moral conscience and sense of shared responsibility to help right the wrongs of our society – slavery, child labour, suffrage, segregation, marriage equality and immigrant rights, to name just a few – we have a tradition of engagement in creative nonviolent resistance. Climate change threatens the health and security of all Americans, and action proportional to the problem is required–now.”
The Keystone XL Pipeline is proposed to transport oil from the Athabasca oil sands area in Alberta in Canada to destinations across the US.
Activists believe that they can still persuade Barack Obama not to approve the system despite pressure from oil companies, the US Chamber of Commerce and other lobby groups. Earth Quaker Action Team and other protestors believe that Barack Obama is willing to block the pipeline but needs to hear this from many citizens first.
Michael Brune, the president of the Sierra Club, a long established US environmental campaign group, was among those arrested. The organisation approved the act of civil disobedience as a show of the strong opposition their members have to the pipeline.
Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute is set to pay for adverts supporting the pipeline and plans to mobilise groups across the country to support the pipeline.