Tar Sands Action Begins in Washington DC

The Tar Sands Action is underway in Washington DC. 2 weeks of daily sit-ins began today with 70+ arrests at the White House fence.

Arrestees included Bill McKibben, Dan Choi, Gus Speth, and dozens of committed climate activists from across the country.

Protestors are calling on President Obama to reject a permit for they Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which will send 900,000 barrels a day of the world’s dirtiest oil to US refineries, allowing further development of the Alberta tar sands – development which could mean ‘game over’ for the climate in the word’s of NASA’s James Hansen.

Statement on First Day’s Police Arrests


U.S. Park Police are holding over 50 people in jail through Sunday night for participating in a peaceful sit-in that took place at the White House this morning.

At 11:00 AM, 65 people took part in the sit-in on the sidewalk in front of the White House fence to pressure President Obama to deny the permit for a massive new oil pipeline.

Over 2,000 people from all 50 states and Canada have registered at Tarsandsaction.org to take part in similar sit-ins of 50-100 people everyday for the next two weeks until September 3.

The people arrested this morning were taken to District 5 Station of the U.S. Park Police in Anacostia for booking. The determination was made that participants would be held until Monday, with the exception of 9-15 DC area residents who will be released this evening. Participants were then transferred to Central Cell Block in Metropolitan Police Headquarters until they appear in court on Monday.

Attorneys will have the opportunity to visit with some of the locked-up participants over the weekend. The attorneys expect that the defendants will be brought into court on Monday afternoon and will be charged and released at that time. As of now, participants have been charged with failure to obey a lawful order, although it is possible that additional charges will be added. Attorneys expect that all will be released by Monday evening.

On a phone call late this afternoon, U.S. Park Police told organizers of the sit-in that the jail time was expressly intended as a deterrent for future participants.

The Park Police were especially concerned that sit-ins would continue during the week of events beginning on August 28 surrounding the dedication of a new memorial to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., one of the greatest exponents of creative nonviolence.

In multiple phone calls and in person meetings before today’s sit-in, the Park Police had previously assured organizers that participants in the protest would be facing a “post and forfeit” situation, meaning they would pay a $100 fine and be released the same day. While participants in this morning’s sit-in were trained the evening before to prepare for the worst, many were operating on the “post and forfeit” assumption due to police assurances.

Not deterred
While the escalated response from the police came as a surprise for organizers behind the protest, they assured the police that the night in jail was not a deterrent for future participants. At a church in Columbia Heights this evening, over 50 more participants from across the country prepared to take part in Sunday morning’s sit-in.

Over the next two weeks, 2,000 more people will follow the example of the 65 people arrested today in order to prevent an environmental disaster that threatens their air, water, and climate.

As the dedication of the MLK Jr. memorial approaches, the sit-in outside the White House is a reminder that the great American tradition of civil disobedience is not just history. The participants are coming not with deep pockets or a partisan agenda, but with the simple idea that their voices should be heard.

They will not be intimidated or deterred.

Legal Information
Attorneys working with Tarsandsaction.org believe that future participants in the sit-in are likely to face up to one night in jail. The initial charge of Failure to Obey a Lawful Order brings a possible fine of $100 or more. The possible additional charge of Incommoding  (Blocking Passage) brings possible fines of up to $500 and/or 90 days of jail. Defendants would likely receive probation and a fine rather than jail time for the charges.

A full legal briefing will be provided for participants every evening during a training before the following day’s sit-in.

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