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Intro: "More than 1,000 people have been busted at the gates of the White House the past two weeks, as the most ambitious of climate protests against Canadian oil comes to a head. Toronto author and activist Naomi Klein was not planning to be among them."

Author, journalist and activist Naomi Klein says her choice to risk arrest at the XL Pipeline protest
Author, journalist and activist Naomi Klein says her choice to risk arrest at the XL Pipeline protest "was a last-minute decision," 09/02/11. (photo: Shadia Fayne Wood/Tar Sands Action)



Naomi Klein Arrested in Oil Sands Protest

By Mitch Potter, The Toronto Star

03 September 11

 

ore than 1,000 people have been busted at the gates of the White House the past two weeks, as the most ambitious of climate protests against Canadian oil comes to a head.

Toronto author and activist Naomi Klein was not planning to be among them. Support the cause? Sure. Speak to the anti-tarsands faithful? Absolutely. But to actually get arrested?

No, Klein and the other Canadian protesters in Washington agreed - that is a stand best left to their U.S. counterparts, who need not worry whether such close encounters with law enforcement will hamper their ability to cross borders in the future.

Yet there was Klein on Friday, being led away by police in the latest harvest of detainees after a last-second decision to put her liberty on the line in opposition to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Two weeks ago, when the rolling protests began, the detentions lasted two full days. But the sheer volume of arrests - Klein was among 166 taken away Friday - has forced DC authorities to accelerate processing. Barely two hours after she was taken away, Klein was let go. Like everyone else, she was cited for "failure to obey."

"I wasn't planning to get arrested," Klein told the Star minutes after she was sprung.

"It was a last-minute decision. I was sitting there with several indigenous leaders from Canada. And when it became clear they intended to stay where they were and expose themselves to arrest, well ..." She did the same.

For Klein, it was a first-ever arrest. "I write. And I'm an activist. But I'm not a chanter, not a marcher. I've never been arrested before.

"But that's what's been happened for two weeks. Climate scientists, landowners, a wide range of people who all feel this same sense of urgency. The feeling is that we can't just talk about the stakes on Twitter and leave it at that. If we mean what we say then we have to act like it."

Klein is unsure yet whether the bust will come back haunt her in future cross-border travels. For now, her speedy release means she will be free to fulfill plans to address Saturday's campaign-ending protest in Lafayette Park opposite the White House.

The overarching question in DC, however, is whether the cause is already lost.

Though no final decision on the $7 billion TransCanada pipeline is expected for 90 days, all the body language emanating from the Obama administration suggests minds are made up and the project to nearly double the American intact of carbon-intensive Alberta bitumen is a go.

Last week the US State Department gave the strongest endorsement yet of the plan to build the metre-wide steel straw from Alberta to Texas in its final environmental assessment.

US Energy Secretary Steve Chu, in a subsequent interview, framed the issue as "not perfect, but it's a trade-off.

"It's certainly true that having Canada as a supplier for our oil is much more comforting than to have other countries supply our oil," Chu said.

And Friday, Team Obama was hastily retreating on another key environmental policy, instructing the Environmental Protection Agency to delay plans to tighten ozone standards. The Sierra Club, among others, denounced the decision as a gift to "coal and oil polluters."

Many longtime interpreters of Washington's political tea leaves suggest the final political considerations for Keystone XL come down to jobs. A $7 billion, shovel-ready project here and now, for a President whose future likely depends on how Americans are working in November, 2012, when Obama comes up for re-election.

The political risks for Obama are vast, insofar as many of those arrested these past two weeks are among his truest believers - the young, grassroots activists who help lift him to power in 2008, fully expecting an administration that would follow through on its promise to wean the country off fossil fuels.

One of them, Courtney Hight, acknowledged her discomfort in an interview with the Star. The Floridian activist was "one of the first boots on the ground for Obama," dedicated three years of her life as his campaign's Youth Vote Director. She went on to join the White House Council on Environmental Quality before shifting back to activism as co-director of the Energy Action Coalition.

She was arrested Thursday, outside the front door of the President she thought agreed with her.

"It feels inherently weird and uncomfortable for me to do something remotely critical of this president," Hight told the Star after her release.

"But I feel ownership over his current position. I am disappointed he is not being stronger, although it is understandable given the continuing attacks he is facing," said Hight.

"We need old Barack Obama to rise above the politics and just barrel through. And so getting arrested, if that is what it takes, is meant to remind him of the things he once believed - things I think he still believes - that inspired millions of young people to support him."

None are ready to concede defeat on Keystone XL. As Klein says, if the pro-tarsands lobby was "100 per cent convinced the deal is done they would not be blanketing the US TV networks with ads trying to sell this thing to the public."

But Klein observed that if Obama ultimately approves Keystone XL, part of the fallout will be to free the broader climate movement from the illusion that "there is a saviour in the White House who just needs to be awakened to come to the rescue."

The protests against Keystone XL, says Klein, are simply one facet of a broader, multi-pronged campaign targeting the industry through multiple pressure points, from consumer campaigns to boycotts to agitating individual corporations to commit to avoiding tarsands oil.

"Powerful movements are built on strategy, not saviours. So if it turns out that Obama approves this pipeline, the movement is not going to crawl away, it's going to change strategy," she said.

"It will be healthy for people to know there isn't a saviour in the White House. We have to build the movement we want. And the strategy can't be trying wake up one person."

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+83 # gfelder 2011-09-03 18:06
In my view the simple truth is Obama is not One damn bit of a improvement over Bush other than he can form an understandable sentence. He has sold out on every issue that encouraged me to support his presidency. His presence has set the progressives back Years, There is nothing like racism to roll the cards every time. What a sick Nation.
 
 
0 # king11232 2012-02-28 06:43
This was a really great contest and hopefully I can attend the next one. It was alot of fun and I really enjoyed myself.. bank rate cd
 
 
+80 # objectiveobserver 2011-09-03 22:40
Naomi Klein is one of the saner voices making keen and timely observations about the folly of our society and the demise of democracy. I have seen those horrible Exxon ads that present lies as truth. It is very strange to see (over and over again) a tv ad that is not selling us a product but rather a process. With these ads, the public is being lobbied to support bad policy. How we race to destroy our planet is hard to fathom. How in 2 short years a politician can go from being a staunch promoter of responsible environmental policy to this, can only prove to us that our president, the individual man, does not truly hold the power. I do believe Obama is a great improvement over Bush, which doesn't say much. His ineffectiveness is profoundly more disheartening because he is the best hope we have had in my lifetime for moral and intelligent leadership. Obviously, the depth of corruption at the top of the power pyramid is a cancer out of control.
 
 
+17 # LML 2011-09-03 23:22
I do believe Obama is a great improvement over Bush?....I beg to differ....ask the victims of extraordinary rendition what they think....
 
 
+23 # tomo 2011-09-04 09:57
"Obama is a great improvement over Bush."
Chomsky remarked that Bush/Cheney captured people and turned them over to people acting out of sight to torture them (as John Yoo, that great teacher of American law at Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley, said they should). Obama has protected Bush and Cheney against prosecution for their war crimes, sequestered the evidence of torture by CIA, persecuted Bradly Manning on the suspicion that Manning has wanted to let the facts speak for themselves (i.e., has persecuted Manning for "committing Democracy"), and--getting back to what Chomsky has said--rather than turning people over for torture, has sent assassin teams and drones to kill them in their homes. Some improvement!

C'mon, objectiveobserv er and LML--wake up and smell the stench of untended feces. Obama is an extremely plausible candidate for the title of "Most successfully duplicitous and despicable person ever elected President of the United States." To my shame, I helped to do it.
 
 
+2 # tomo 2011-09-04 09:58
Sorry, LML--right after I posted a criticism of you, I see you are on my side.
 
 
+8 # marilynrssll 2011-09-04 00:02
FYI .... I was in the Caribbean (Roatan, off the coast of Honduras) four or five years ago, and met a guy at the airport who had been working on the "tar sands" in mid-Alberta. Weird, I thought at the time. Soooo, now I know.... this has been going on since then. Four or five years ALREADY! (not good!)
 
 
+30 # futhark 2011-09-04 05:50
The magnitude of this protest is heartening, especially since it is pointed at a president that has a "D" after his name. People are really waking up to the fact that the American government is a plutocracy, whether by "R" or by "D", and are getting out in the streets to show their displeasure with the situation! BRAVO!
 
 
+33 # in deo veritas 2011-09-04 07:05
Here is another example of the erosion of our rights under the Constitution, i.e. the right to peacefully assemble. Who were the rent-a-cops protecting? Where was there a threat? Is Obama so deluded that he ignores the polls? Does he simply isolate himself from reality? These are questions that MUST be answered. We know where the fascist teabaggers stand on about everything but is anyone taking a stand against them?
 
 
+15 # Artemis 2011-09-04 07:15
Unfortunately, this is what it comes down to, people need to be arrested for standing up for what is important. Just as over a hundred of the peaceful "Welcome to Palestine" visitors were arrested at Ben Gurion in July and spent days in Israeli jails for stating their wish to visit Palestinians in the West Bank (over 350 were denied boarding flights because Israel had given their names to the airlines and over a hundred managed to get through by lying about their intention, as most travellers do for fear of not being allowed into the West Bank, which is ne aspect that the "Welcome to Palestine" trip wished to illustrate).
Citizens all over the world are being arrested these days for standing up to governments' wrong policies.
 
 
+10 # dgrhm 2011-09-04 07:33
If I were a betting man, I'd say the odds are pretty good Obama let's the pipeline be built. Look for ExxonMobil to air greenwashed ads.
 
 
+14 # Richard Bluhm 2011-09-04 08:07
A comment made about "Deep Green Resistance" by McBay, Keith and Jensen, a new and provocative book recommending an aggressive response to our current ecological disaster is as follows:

If Deep Green Resistance does not inspire its reader to political action, then nothing will."

I'm 200 pages into the 500 page tome, and I'm getting some fire in my belly. See you on the streets.
 
 
+2 # michelle 2011-09-04 10:10
Thanks for the title. I will pick it up.
 
 
+6 # michelle 2011-09-04 10:17
continued... Went over to amazon and read the reviews. Heading over to bookstore to pick up a copy. I'm an anthropologist and my focus is people, especially structural violence. I'm sending a title back to you. "Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor" by Paul Farmer. You might look up urban farming in Cuba. Cuba experienced post peak oil when the USSR crashed. They made some remarkable strides in food production in cities. There is just so much to do and not much time to do it.
 
 
+1 # lightsout 2011-09-05 07:34
Google "farming in Cuba"
 
 
+16 # asiaart 2011-09-04 08:14
Nixon was more pro-environment than Obama. I didn't expect Obama to be the second coming, but I did expect him to do the right thing when it came to environmental causes. For the first time since his election, I am seriously considering not voting for him in 2012.

Anyone interested in more info about this pipeline, watch the forthcoming film "Pipe Dreams" by Leslie Iwerks.
 
 
+11 # michelle 2011-09-04 10:06
Most heartening and optimistic is the international composition of the protesters. Canadian People and American People, not politicians nor plutocrats, make up this crowd. Maybe to borrow a bit from Marx, People of the World Unite. I am seeing no coverage of the protests on network news.
 
 
+11 # tomo 2011-09-04 10:17
Interesting is the quality of persons being arrested for exercising a human right to petition our government for a redress of grievances: Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, James Hanson. (And no, this ISN'T a right CONFERRED by the US Bill of Rights on American citizens; it's a right the Bill of Rights attempts to protect--unsucc essfully of late--from violation by our government. C'mon, Tea-partiers, speak out! I can hear Sam Adams and Thomas Paine rumbling in their graves.)

As for the disgusting, endlessly repeated lies on television of Exxon and Chevron, they even turn up on PBS--which in a remarkable bold-face lie claims it has no advertising. Among the other little incremental resolutions you can take toward improving things, take one to abstain from the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer for the rest of your life. (Young people don't have to take this resolution; they abstain spontaneously.)
 
 
+2 # Saberoff 2011-09-04 21:05
Way ahead of you on Lehrer. I gave up on that a-hole when he gave W The Big Pass on (wasn't it the first?) W/Gore debate. Who is paying these people to pull this crap?
 
 
+17 # Davethinks 2011-09-04 11:01
It is hard to believe that there is something worse than fracking, but the Keystone XL pipeline qualifies. Obama's advisors need to stop heeding the monied classes and listen to the environment concerns.
 
 
+19 # qasee 2011-09-04 11:25
cited for "failure to obey." I find that very chilling, don't you?
 
 
+2 # jwb110 2011-09-04 12:18
This whole thing is about Electoral Votes in the upcoming election. The President can say he brought jobs and more prosperity to Texas by standing firm on this pipeline. Not particularly comforting. Houston has more capacity to refine then it has oil to refine and it is the largest supplier of petrochemical and fuel in the nation.
I think it is a terrible mistake to build this pipeline and more so that its building is motivated by a political system that caters to large Electoral Vote states. But remember it is Texas. Calif has a great many refineries and could use a little help and we are a state with many Electoral Votes but we are not Texas and that makes all the difference. Conservative versus Liberal. Texas Oil in the White House for 8 years set the tone for this. It's going to take more than one lone Black man to turn it around.
 
 
+10 # Anarchist 23 2011-09-04 13:15
That part about 7 billion in 'shovel ready projects' is quite a joke. We may as well dig our own graves, another shovel ready project as to let this immense polluting project go through! It will come to the barricades!
 
 
+1 # ScottShuster 2011-09-04 13:48
As someone who has shapped so much of our thought - welcome to the club.
 
 
+3 # propsguy 2011-09-04 15:40
what? is it illegal now to peacefully organize to protest? are we just supposed to go along with everything, no matter how wrong?
obama thinks he is sitting pretty. he thinks he will be re-elected as the lesser of two evils. i think he's wrong.
what a waste of time he has been!
 
 
+1 # Saberoff 2011-09-04 21:12
I think you could be right; and Obama could very well lose 2012! We've seen what Obama can do for Democrats (2010).
 
 
0 # Sallyport 2011-09-05 11:23
At this point, Obama would do anything that might produce -- or promise -- 100 jobs, no matter the consequences to the greater society. He is desperate to be re-elected. If he succeeds, we will be even deeper in the moral morass represented by the idea that "the left has nowhere else to go" & must reap the consequences. Monstrous as the idea is, we might be better off in the long run to let one of the unspeakable republicans win: that could be counted on to reenergize the left to strike back effectively in 2016. Maybe we'll have the guts to nominate someone truly principled, like Dennis Kucinich.
 
 
-3 # Craig Purcell 2011-09-05 14:00
The two parties are corrupt. It is time to mount anthird party run from the left. Obama has made the calculation and it does not include you. He thinks you have no place else to go.

Ron Paul is more of a Democrat than Obama.
 
 
0 # Mardi Gras 2011-09-14 03:21
Doesn't Houston know what tar sands refining will do to its air?
 
 
0 # king11232 2012-02-28 06:42
Please continue this great work and I look forward to more of your awesome blog posts. bank rate cd
 
 
0 # marthameme 2013-10-30 10:21
And here I bought plastic wrap just the other day. Avoided the Saran brand, remembering how we boycotted it during Vietnam war because Dow produced Agent Orange, but still bought plastic wrap. Not sure if individual worrying about such consumer choices is helpful or simply exhausting. So, what do you say, how bad is plastic wrap?
 

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