Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

March 11, 2013

Students risking arrest to halt TransCanada Keystone tarsands

March 11, 2013
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Over 100 Youth Risk Arrest, Escalating Fight Against Keystone XL Pipeline

Students hold “Funeral for Our Future” in act of civil disobedience at TransCanada Corporation’s Westborough, MA Office

Westborough, MA – On Monday morning, over 100 students and community members marched into TransCanada’s Westborough office and held a funeral mourning the loss of their future at the hands of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport the tar sands that climate scientists say will lock us into irreversible global warming. More than 25 protesters were arrested for refusing to leave the office in an act of civil disobedience.

Carrying a coffin emblazoned with the words “Our Future,” the protesters held flowers and sang an elegy as they marched in procession. Massachusetts Methodist clergy members and a group of mothers holding photographs of their children joined the youth in protest.

The action marked a sharp escalation of the protests in New England against the Keystone XL pipeline. In January, eight students locked and glued themselves at the same TransCanada office. Nationwide, the pipeline has already prompted civil disobedience outside the White House, direct blockades of construction, and the largest climate rally in US history. Today's action kicks off a week of solidarity actions being called for by our allies at the Tar Sands Blockade. During the week of March 16th-24th protestors from across the country will target the offices of TransCanada and its investors.

The protesters staged the funeral a week after the US State Department released a widely criticized Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL pipeline. While admitting that rejecting the pipeline would have little effect on jobs, the document minimizes claims about the pipeline’s impact on climate change and on communities who would be at risk for devastating pipeline spills like the 2010 Kalamazoo spill, from which the affected communities are still recovering. The impact assessment also makes the assumption that the Alberta tar sands will be developed regardless of whether Keystone XL goes forward—an assumption not shared by today’s protesters and refuted by indigenous communities whose treaties the Canadian government is violating by allowing development of the tar sands.

“If the tar sands are extracted and burned, it will wipe out my future and the future of my entire generation,” said Will Pearl, a Tufts University freshman arrested in the action. “If President Obama will not reject the Keystone XL pipeline, we will stop it ourselves. We will rise up and resist—from the backwoods of Texas, to corporate offices in Massachusetts, to the steps of the White House.”

“The stakes couldn’t be higher,” said Isobel Arthen, a junior at Mount Holyoke who participated in Monday’s action. “The total carbon contained in Canada’s tar sands exceeds all the oil burned in human history. If we develop these incredibly dirty fossil fuels, my future will be marked by superstorms, untold numbers of climate refugees and climate-related deaths, and ultimately an uninhabitable planet. The planet is already the hottest it’s been in 4000 years. How hot will it be when the Keystone pipeline delivers over 800,000 barrels of tar sands a day? We must stop it. We will stop it.”

“President Obama and Secretary Kerry may not be able to stop climate change, but they have the opportunity to reject the pipeline that would make that change inevitable,” said Rachel Bishop, a senior at Brown University. “They have the power to stop investment in dirty fossil fuels and commit to developing clean and renewable energy sources as real alternatives, securing a legacy not of destruction, but of innovation and real leadership.”

“I am standing with these courageous young people and with parents everywhere who are losing hope for their children’s futures,” said Susan Redlich, one of the mothers present at the action. “We are determined to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and preserve a livable future for all children.”

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