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September 30, 2014
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Protesting the tar sands pipeline

Marygrace Kennedy at the Tar Sands Action just before her mother, Virginia was arrested.


On Friday night we joined people from all over the country, all ages, all walks of life, gathered at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. We were the first wave of over 2,000 people who signed up to participate over two weeks; the largest civil disobedience to protest climate change ever.

Many of these folks were not perennial protesters. They were grandmothers, teachers, moms and dads, college students, priests, ministers, people who had never participated in any protest before. They were people who understand that climate change is real and it’s now, and we are facing a historical challenge—the urgent need to transform our society away from a dependence on fossil fuels.

We were asked to dress professionally and conduct ourselves with peace and dignity so we would be taken seriously. We would quietly hold our “No Tar Sands Pipeline; Give us clean energy” banners in front of the Whitehouse and be arrested for not moving away when the National Park Service (NPS) directed us to move. A prior arrangement was made with the NPS that protestors would be arrested and then would “post and forfeit;” that is pay a fine and then go home. This is not what happened.

Marygrace: On Saturday, we gathered at the White House gate. It was a beautiful day. There were lots of media people, and many people supporting the first group of protestors. My mom and I were interviewed and talked about why we were there. I said, “It’s our planet, our responsibility, and though young people like me may not have caused the problem, we are going to pay for it if we don’t wake up and become part of the solution.”

The protestors walked to the White House gate and stood peacefully holding their banners. I stood with them, but separated, and stood with the supporters when the NPS police asked the protestors to move. My mom didn’t want me arrested. We cheered when protestors got handcuffed one by one. One of the NPS policemen teased me about my mom. The mood was celebratory; everyone felt good to be taking action on the pipeline. The friends we were staying with and I went to the Smithsonian and waited for my mom to call us and tell us to pick her up. When my mom finally did call us it wasn’t to say, “I paid my fine; come get me.” It was to tell us that all out-of-towners were to be held in jail until Monday, when they would go to court.

It didn’t seem real. These people weren’t anarchists. They were teachers, parents, grandparents, priests, college students. And they were being held in jail for peacefully standing in front of the White House and asking our president for clean energy.