The White House Peace Vigil takes up only a little sidewalk space on Pennsylvania Ave. but leaves a big footprint. For 32 years, two six-foot yellow signs with a white tarp between them have warned us about the dangers of nuclear weapons. This iconic statement for disarmament almost came to an end today.
Thousands of tourists have seen it, taken pictures of it, and talked to Concepcion, the co-founder who’s been there since the beginning–Chinese tourists from Shanghai, Koreans from Seoul, Germans on their way to Philadelphia, gay rights activists from Africa, and school groups from Iowa.
Hundreds of volunteers have invested over 282,000 hours of labor staffing the vigil, sitting through rain, snow, cold, heat, thirst–and boredom. During Hurricane Sandy three people held it in place for hours as the wind screamed.
There’s a bathroom nearby but it closes early. Someone has to man it 24 hours a day, so volunteers are organized into shifts and bring their own food and water. They have to wait for their replacements, even if they come late.
Facing the north portico of the White House, the tattered tarp and yellow signs present an image of the powerless confronting the all-powerful. Undoubtedly every president since 1981–five of them–has seen it and knows its history, yet none have ever acknowledged it. Continue reading →
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]
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]
For the first time in its 120-year history, the environmental group Sierra Club engaged in a civil disobedience action.
Allison Chin, President of the Sierra Club Board of Directors, and Executive Director Michael Brune lined up in front of the White House to be arrested for obstruction along with 46 others activists. Many of them were also leaders of fellow environmental advocacy organizations, such as Rainforest Action Network, Earthworks, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace and 350.org.
“We have joined the ranks of visionaries of the past and present to engage in civil disobedience, knowing that the issue at hand is so critical, it compels the strongest defensible action,” said Brune.
And he believes that it has been successful. “We’re on the cusp of a clean energy revolution in the U.S.,” he said. “We have a movement of people who are fighting for clean energy, and they’re winning.”
More from interview with Michael Brune:
On global warming denial:
I think what’s behind it is fear. We have built an economy that is based on fossil fuels, and people don’t know what the world can look like when we move off of those fuels. People who deny climate change obviously haven’t looked at the science, they haven’t had a candid, honest, thoughtful conversation with someone who has studied this issue, and they fear for what a transition will mean for their lives.
So what we say to them is that the clean energy solutions that we’ve been talking are being put into place right now. Iowa gets almost 25% of its power just from wind. South Dakota the same. California will soon get 30% of its power from solar and wind.
We’re just getting started. We’ve quintupled the amount of solar energy that’s being produced in the us in just the last four years. Wind energy has doubled in the last four years. We know in our generation we’re going to build an economy based on power that’s clean and renewable, and it will put more people to work. It will increase our quality of life at the same time.
Is global warming at the point of no return?
No, I don’t think so. I think that we are on the cusp of a clean energy revolution in the United States. We’re seeing a resurgence of grassroots activism that’s stopped a 175 coal plants from being built, that is exposing the dangers of fracking, that has slowed mountain-top removal in Appalachia, that’s secured the retirement of 137 existing coal-fired power plants. So we have a movement of people who are fighting for clean energy, they’re winning, and we’re building momentum.
On President Obama’s State of the Union address:
I thought that they [his remarks] were largely pretty good. To have a president speak forcefully and candidly about the science behind climate change and connecting the extreme weather events that we saw with the opportunity for action is a powerful thing. And what we really need to see of course is for the President to follow up his Inauguration speech and the State of the Union last night with strong action to stop arctic drilling, to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline, to stop mountain-top removal,
and to invest in solar and wind with all of his might and ambition instead.
Cool Revolution interviews actor and activist Daryl Hannah just before her arrest at the White House in a civil disobedience action on February 13, 2013. She joined a group of a few dozen demonstrators, including leaders of environmental organizations, who demanded that President Obama use his executive authority to stop construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
She was glad that President Obama pressed for action on climate change in his State of the Union address, but “we don’t need to wait for further innovation and technology” before we move to clean energy.
She believes that so many people deny that global warming is happening because, she said, “Global warming denial has a history of being very well-funded.”
When asked if we’ve already reached the point of no return when it comes to climate change, she said, “It’s never too late to stop creating a problem…. If you’re going down the wrong road, it’s never too late to turn around and go the other way.”
Freedom Plaza was the site of the Occupy Washington DC encampment. Since it’s on the Inaugural parade route approaching the White House on Pennsylvania Ave., you’ll find an occupation of bleachers there today instead of tents.
A year after the tentative first stirrings of what is becoming the Arab world’s bloodiest and most far-reaching revolt, whole cities are under siege. Residential neighborhoods lie in ruins. More than 8,000 people are dead, tens of thousands have been detained, untold numbers have been tortured, others are missing, and nearly a quarter-million have been displaced from their homes, according to the United Nations.
A sea of green, white and black flags with red stars filled Lafayette Park as protestors sang songs in Syrian. They also chanted, “There is only one solution–Revolution, revolution!” and “Russia, China, you will fail!” Russia and China have resisted efforts in the UN Security Council to condemn the violent crackdown against the opposition forces.
Many people came from distant places specifically to be at the protest. Lynn, 14, from Seattle, WA, said she was there “for Syria to be free.”
Ranya, Noorah and Rama, all young Syrian American women from Michigan, also came to Washington, DC to oppose the regime’s killing of civilians. Noorah said that while no family members had been killed, some had fled the country and others felt threatened by the situation. Ranya called the current regime “beyond evil,” and she was “shocked that the international community could remain silent and inactive.”
One of the worst affected cities is Homs, which was besieged for 27 days until government forces overran the opposition stronghold Bab Amr earlier this month. Protestor Fadiakarh, originally from Homs but who now lives in Chicago, said the regime’s actions are “genocide at many levels,” and that it is unacceptable that “only 12% of the population are in charge.” He was referring to the Alawites, the branch of Shia Muslims which includes President al-Bassad.