Thursday, November 10, 2011

Protesting in D.C

In my last post, I uploaded some pictures from my recent trip to Washington D.C with Green Up. Some of them are goofy, but some of them show how massive and important this protest was.

Off the bat, a few fun facts. Approximately 12,000 protesters were in attendance from all over the country (I ran into a former ski team mate who goes to school in Florida; her school, Eckerd College, had a huge turnout), we fully encircled the White House for the first time since 1960, a floor-mate of mine, Dan Quigley, was interviewed by the Associated Press and mentioned in this article (he also got a mention for SMC), and since the protest, Obama has decided to delay his decision on the pipeline. While that is neither a "loss" nor a "victory" for the Tar Sands movement, it does mean that it's not being built right now.

So, about the trip; it was awesome. I went into it with the expectation that a lot of the people there knew more than I did, and I wanted to learn from them. And between the discussion we had Saturday night at the All Souls Unitarian Universalist church, talking to fellow SMC students about the pipeline, and hearing what was said at the rally, I learned a lot.

At All Souls (as I mentioned in passing), there was a rally Saturday night to unify the protesters, inform them of the logistics and planning, and also to get the ball rolling on actions after the protest. A few of the key organizers spoke, and each of them of a surprisingly different background. It was interesting to see, in the organizers and in the protesters, the variety of people that cared about this protest. The most represented age groups were teens/twenties and fifties/sixties. The latter kind of surprised me until later I was made aware that most of the fifties/sixties had been environmentally active in the 70's, and were getting back into it now that the movement was making a comeback.

We left All Souls at around 9, went to the church we were staying at (St. Stephen's), made a quick run to IHOP, and were in bed around midnight... only to wake up at 6 in the morning.

The protest didn't start til 2, so until then we had time to explore the city, which was pretty cool cause I hadn't ever been before. We had a good (if not kinda pricey) breakfast, walked around some monuments, went to an Occupy D.C location, and met at LaFayette Square around 1:30pm.

After that it was pretty nuts. At the rally there were people with signs (some of them very clever; I saw "if you build it, it will leak", "thank you big oil, I hate polar bears", "fossils are friends, not fuels"...), a large pipeline that said "Stop Keystone XL", awesome speakers (including Bill McKibben), and the feeling was overall really exciting and united. I had never felt so connected to such a large group of people; it was like being at a concert, but with more protesting and less fighting (amongst the crowd, anyway).

Probably a little after 2pm (I lost track of time) we began to circle the White House. It took a while. We went in 4 mass-migrations of people; I went with the 3rd one.

Once we got into place, it was unreal. I almost didn't want to talk; I wanted to just stand there, holding my sign, remaining silent and stoic and feeling like I was really making a difference. I did stay silent for a while, but eventually I started shouting with the crowd, which was also fun.

About 20 minutes after we got into place, the organizers came around and told us we had completely encircled the White House for the first time since 1960, and it felt like we won. People started shouting louder (I tweeted about it ;p) and it kind of felt like the climactic moment of the trip.

After some celebration, we were told we could go back to the rally or go back home, so the crowd began to dwindle, and eventually we headed back to our bus, and were back on the road to SMC.

During this weekend, I learned so much, I felt like I was making a difference, and I discovered a new-found passion for activism that I hadn't really experienced before. Definitely one of the most important things I've done since I came to college!

Thanks for reading!

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