Tar Sands Action Protest, August 20 2011

The Tar Sands 65, photo by tarsandsaction

Dan Choi, Bill McKibben and Scarecrow have now spent two nights in jail courtesy of the DC police for an offense that routinely equates to a parking ticket.  According to Ted Glick over at Grist, the orders to hold them came from “higher up”:

In negotiations with the police prior to the action that began on Saturday, the police were very clear that what would happen after people were arrested was the vast majority would get what’s called “post and forfeit,” where you put up $100, get released from jail after several hours, and you don’t have to come back again. It’s basically like a traffic ticket.

But this is not what they did. Instead, after arresting the first day’s 70 people, they decided to hold most of them, all those not from within a 25-mile radius of Washington, D.C., in jail until a Monday afternoon arraignment. This works out to 48 or more hours in jail before being released.

Why did they do this? One of the police officers told one of the action’s lead organizers that the decision to do this was made “at a much higher level than mine.” Four separate police officers told organizers that it was explicitly to discourage other people from taking part in actions going forward. Personally, I believe this had the hand of the Obama administration all over it. They want this action to fail so as to relieve the rapidly building pressure on them to do the right thing and deny the Keystone XL permit.

I agree that there is no way the DC cops, or the Park Police, decided to do this on their own. They released 8 of the 65 people arrested on Saturday (including me) because we live in the DC area and they had an overcrowding problem in the DC jail.  Which is why they also released all 45 people who were arrested yesterday. But their “solution” managed to keep Bill McKibben incarcerated for two days, significantly disrupting the leadership of the action.

I have no doubt Obama wants to give the oil companies what they want and approve the pipeline. Why wouldn’t he? The guy who took his daughter down to play in the gulf and has done nothing to hold BP responsible for the Deepwater Horizon spill is not going to stand up to the oil companies at collection election time.

But there’s also another election component to factor in.  As Neil Munro notes this morning, “Obama has maintained high support among some important groups that respond to liberal arguments, including gays and environmentalists.”

Obama wants and needs the support of liberal environmentalists in 2012, but he doesn’t intend to do anything substantial for them, like blocking construction of the pipeline.  If he did, he’d certainly say so before two weeks of protests began at the White House.  So just as Bradley Manning was stripped naked and forced to stand in front of guards for inspection after people began protesting about his conditions, the leaders of the Tar Sands protest were held in DC jail for two days in another moment of authoritarian overreaction.

I spoke to the lawyers last night about the conditions in the jail.  The women who had their sweaters and jackets taken from them were forced to sleep in thin summer garments appropriate to 90 degree heat in a very cold cell on the floor with no blankets.  The styrofoam blankets that had been given to us by the Park Police were confiscated before they were transported to the DC jail.  There is no doubt that the organizers were deliberately lied to so that the protesters would not be prepared, part of a conscious effort to make everyone as miserable as possible.

I’ll be at the DC courthouse for our arraignment at 2pm today, along with Scarecrow, Dan Choi, Bill McKibben and the rest of the Tar Sands 65. I’ll be posting about it as soon as I can. It will be wonderful to bring Dan and Scarecrow home.

Kevin Zeese writes today that the October2011 coalition is urging people to join the Tar Sands protest: “The over-reaction to carefully choreographed and negotiated civil resistance shows the fear the administration has of mass civil resistance.”

UPDATE: Charges dropped against everyone but Lt. Dan Choi, Tom Weis, and Dave Schleisinger of Vets 4 Peace. They’ll be brought up for arraignment shortly.

Please come to DC and send a message to the President that he cannot capitulate to the oil companies and approve the tar sands pipeline without consequence.  Let him know that people who care about the environment, from conservative Nebraska ranchers to urban climate change activists, oppose this rapacious act of oil company greed.

Join the Tar Sands 14 Day White House Sit-In.

Other posts in this series: