WASHINGTON, DC — Organizers estimated that 50,000 people took to the streets of Washington DC today as a broad coalition of progressive groups came together to press the Obama administration to kill the KeystoneXL pipeline and make good on promises of action on climate change.
By 11am, buses were pulling up to the Mall near the Washington Monument, and groups of activists were streaming into rally area with signs, banners, and even a fifty foot long fabric pipeline emblazoned with “Just say no to Keystone.” One particularly striking moment came as group of marchers, accompanied on a mandolin, broke into “This Land is Your Land” as they passed in front of the White House. You can watch it here:
Environmental activist Hilton Kelley, winner of the 2011 Goldman Prize for his work fighting pollution, described to RI Future the multitude of environmental toxins the KeystoneXL pipeline would bring to its terminus in his native city of Port Arthur, Texas. He expressed hope that the rally would help convince President Obama to block construction.
Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who delivered a powerful speech at the rally, told RI Future of his particular concerns for our state.
“A lot of very knowledgeable people on this subject have said that if we get into those tar sands and start burning them, it’s game over on climate change,” he said. “Climate change sounds like it’s a million miles away and very general, but it comes home to roost in Rhode Island in very big ways.”
“Carbon pollution really dramatically hits the oceans,” said Whitehouse. “A lot of people remember the famous Hurricane of 1938? There is ten inches of sea level rise measured at the Newport tidal gauge since the 1930s. So, if the same storm were to hit again, there’s ten inches more sea, which would presumably stack up in a storm surge to do even more damage.”
“Three to six feet of increase in my children’s lifetimes, think of what that does to the South County coastal ponds. Think about what that does to low-lying areas like Barrington which don’t see themselves as coastal because they’re not really on the coast, but they’re low-lying, up the Bay,” said Whitehouse.
“Because sea level rise will impact us very significantly, this is a big deal for us, we can’t be messing around with carbon pollution and pretend it’s not a Rhode Island issue.”
Following speeches by representatives from the many groups in the coalition which organized the rally (video highlights available on the Sierra Club site, marchers set off on an hour-long walk up 17th Street and then across Pennsylvania Avenue, where they were funneled through construction fencing around the still-being-dismantled viewing stands from President Obama’s inauguration.
More photos available on Flickr stream here.