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Scrapbook: Big Tar Sands Rally in Washington, D.C.

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Sierra Club Scrapbook

November 21, 2012

Big Tar Sands Rally in Washington, D.C.

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On Sunday, November 18, Sierra Club president Allison Chin joined 350.org founder Bill McKibben and 3,000 other demonstrators in Washington, D.C., for a march on the White House and a rally against tar sands development and the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

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The demonstration, organized by 350.org, the Sierra Club, and other public interest groups, followed a 350.org "Do the Math" climate event at Washington's historic Warner Theater.

Marchers carried a 500-foot-long "oil pipeline" and held signs with quotes from President Obama about his commitment to tackling the climate crisis. Among them was his comment on election night: "We want our children to live in an America that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet."

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"We're asking the president to reject the Keystone XL pipeline," said Chin, below with McKibben at Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington. "But we're also asking him to embrace a positive, solution-oriented climate legacy. Mr. President, the tar sands are your climate legacy—it's what you do here that history will remember."

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A year ago, President Obama sent the Keystone XL pipeline back to the State Department for a new environmental review, but he put off deciding whether tar sands crude and the pipeline are in the interests of the American people.

"The president needs to know that the American people have his back on keeping tar sands crude out of America," Chin told the crowd at Freedom Plaza. "The extreme weather of 2012—epic droughts and the Sandy superstorm—is delivering a loud and clear message that solutions to climate disruption can't wait. Keeping tar sands out of America is a critical step to turn this problem around."

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The November 18 march and rally were the first in a series of actions planned by the Sierra Club, 350.org, and allied groups to promote a major climate agenda and reject tar sands, the Keystone XL pipeline, and other extreme oil sources. The actions will culminate in a President's Day March on Washington on February 18, 2013.

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"It's time to start holding the fossil fuel industry accountable for the wholesale damage they're doing to our planet," McKibben said. "If Sandy showed us anything, it's that the hour is late and the need is urgent—but the fossil fuel industry has terrified our politicians and the result has been two decades of inaction. We need that to change."

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Ralliers retraced the steps of last year's tar sands demonstration in which 12,000 citizen activists encircled the White House. Once this year's marchers reached Freedom Plaza, they heard from ranchers and farmers living along the path of the proposed pipeline.

"TransCanada bullied me out of my land and now they're ripping my farm apart," said Susan Scott, a landowner and lifelong East Texan. "This pipeline puts my family, my loved ones, and my property at risk; but we all need to rise up and defend our homes because this isn't just about Texas. Keystone XL threatens us all."

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Other speakers included Indigenous Environmental Network organizer Marty Cobanais, BOLD Nebraska's Jane Kleeb, and Rose Berger, associate editor of Sojourners magazine and a lead religious organizer with Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light.

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"The frontline in the fight to stop climate disruption runs right through Freedom Plaza today, it runs around the White House, and up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol," Chin told the assembled crowd. "It hits every state, every boardroom, every school, and every kitchen table in America. We need to make a choice, right here, right now, about whether we will hand the keys to our nation to oil companies, or stand up and reject this ridiculous pipeline. Will America be the victim of climate disruption, or will we be the hero of a clean energy revolution? I choose the revolution!"

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All photos except final photo of Allison Chin by James B. Dougherty.

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