Faith leaders arrested, activists storm Valero Corp as Keystone XL protests heat up in Washington, DC

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Matt Kirkland protests in front of Valero Corporation

by John Zangas and Anne Meador

A week of protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington, DC continued Thursday with civil disobedience at the White House and visits to pipeline profiteers.

Fifteen participants in the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC) were arrested for blocking the sidewalk in front of the White House. Religious leaders called the Keystone XL Pipeline “a grave threat to humanity” and described their moral obligation to stand up against it.

Unitarian minister Terry Ellen said, “The Keystone, as you know, is the fuse to the accelerant that will jettison our planet beyond the point of no repair… We are all moving toward a radically new future. We are all part of a serious challenge against the entrenched power and concentrated wealth of our land.” [VIDEO: Interview with Terry Ellen]

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As police arrested interfaith leaders in front of the White House, a separate protest kicked off from the Canadian Embassy just a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue. They marched toward a TD Bank branch in Chinatown, chanting, “Jobs at the Keystone? No, let’s get it. There are no jobs on a dead planet!”

Protestors then stormed the lobby of energy company Valero Corporation, a major investor in the Keystone XL Pipeline. Valero stands to receive and refine more oil from the pipeline than any other company.

Police and security officers scuffled with protestors, and five were arrested after they refused to leave. [VIDEO]

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Activists barricade TD Bank in Washington, DC to protest funding of Keystone XL Pipeline

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by Anne Meador and John Zangas

Environmentalists attempted to shut down a branch of TD Bank in Washington, DC early this morning to protest the bank’s funding of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Two activists chained themselves to a “bear trap”–a plastic container filled with concrete–in the ATM lobby, while another secured himself to the front door with a U-lock. TD Bank is a major bankroller of TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline.

3Activists_TDBankThe action was in solidarity with a campaign aimed at keeping the Keystone XL Pipeline from going forward. The proposed 1,700-mile pipeline would carry 900,000 barrels of tar sands oil from Hardisy, Alberta to Port Arthur, Texas. Environmentalists claim that the tar sands oil and the pipeline which would transport it could be environmentally devastating.

About 50 police officers and several police vehicles arrived on the scene at TD Bank about 6 a.m. and cordoned off P Street. They drove press away from the bank and held up sheets to block the view of extricating the protestors. No one was injured while removing the locks and chains, nor was there property damage.

Police did not arrest or charge the protestors. A police officer on the scene said that TD Bank did not want to press charges, but TD Bank would not confirm this. The protestors were cleared out by the bank’s 8 a.m. opening time.

The activists who barricaded the bank–Kelly Canavan, Jason McGaughey and Eli Greer–and about ten supporting protestors were objecting to TD Bank’s role as a primary financier of Keystone XL and demanding that it divest from TransCanada Corporation. As of 2010, TD Bank held $1.6 billion of stock in TransCanada.

TDBank_BoltcutterIn response to this morning’s protest, TD Bank released a statement saying, “TD Bank supports responsible energy development. We employ rigorous due diligence in our financing and investing activities relating to energy production.”

Protestor Kelly Canavan said she is concerned about the environment and her son’s future. “The tar sands pose a serious threat to all of us,” she said. “We must do everything we can to stop tar sand production from continuing. TD Bank must be held accountable for their part [in] promoting toxic genocide.”

“TD Bank is a Canadian bank that claims to be the most convenient bank in America,” says Jason McGaughey, one of the protestors chained in the ATM lobby.

“[But] it’s not very convenient they’re paying to have our futures destroyed. It’s not very convenient they’re paying to have our health destroyed. It’s not very convenient they’re pursuing the further genocide and ethnocide against the indigenous people around this country. It’s not very convenient at all.”

Protests against the pipeline are coming to a climax as its development enters a critical phase. Following the release of an Environmental Impact Statement from the State Department, President Obama will soon make a decision whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline or stop the project. According to environmentalists, harvesting the “dirty” tar sands oil, potential leakage and spills, and the amount of carbon emissions from the oil produced could all negatively impact the environment.

VIDEO: Protestor Kelly Canavan describes her reasons for blockading the bank

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