I was at the White House once again yesterday protesting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline along with many of the folks I was arrested with on September 9 including Dan Choi, Jessica, Ari, Scarecrow and Bill McKibben. It was really gratifying to see that our relatively small crew of 65 who were handcuffed, hauled off in paddy wagons and sent to jail with almost zero media attention that first day had now swelled to a crowd of over 12,000 that the media could not ignore.

A lot of folks had been pretty shook up at being locked up for 2 days over what basically amounted to a parking ticket in order to deter future protesters. Yesterday we got a chance to shake hands with many of the Day 2 protesters, who went out and got arrested anyway knowing that they might face the same consequences, but they refused to be deterred. It was nice closure.

Van Jones was conspicuously absent when we were getting arrested at the White House that day in September (Overheard in the paddy wagon: “Where’s Van Jones? You think he would want to be here.”) He couldn’t come yesterday either, but he sent along a rather unequivocal condemnation of President Obama for even considering approval of the Keystone XL pipeline,  calling for people to respond with mass civil disobedience if he does.

Following yesterday’s action, in which 12,500 people were standing three-deep surrounding the White House, McKibben spoke briefly and read an email he had just received from Jones:

I wish I could be there, helping you to surround my old workplace. Only unavoidable family obligations are keeping me away; I would be there with you under any other circumstances, and my spirit absolutely is.

That affirmation is good to hear.  There shouldn’t have been anything to keep him from lifting a pen and signing onto the October 4 letter from environmental leaders protesting the questionable relationship between Hillary Clinton and other State Department officials with Trans Canada and the process that they are using to determine approval of the pipeline. But 12,500 people is a lot more than 65, and it’s hard for a leading environmentalist to retain any street cred within the community and remain silent on this:

We have a duty to support the president when he is right (for instance, fighting for the jobs bill). And we have an equal duty to oppose him when he is wrong. And if he is even considering approving this monstrous, planet-killing proposal, President Obama is flat-out, absolutely, and 100 percent wrong.

Let the message be clear: We, the People, cannot accept this. If the White House lets the proposal go forward, there should be nonviolent civil disobedience and mass arrests along every mile, foot, and inch of the construction route — until it is impossible to complete. August was the beginning of the “people’s veto” of this whole proposal; we will never give up until the very idea of Keystone XL is dead and buried.

But is should never come to that. I call upon President Obama to stand with the people who stood with him and who stand for future generations: reject Keystone XL.

All people of conscience reject it. I stand with them, loud and proud. So should President Obama.

Green jobs for all!

There has been speculation that because the pipeline has become such a political hot potato, Obama will punt on the decision until after the 2012 election.  That was my guess anyway, but Scarecrow had another one in the wake of Obama’s announcement last week that he would personally take responsibility for whatever decision was made.  Scarecrow thought Obama was telling Trans Canada to move the pipeline route away from the Ogallala aquifier — which would mitigate the right-wing opposition to the pipeline from Nebraska ranchers, and “give something to the kids.”

It does sound like the kind of Solomonic baby-slicing that has become Obama’s trademark, and if what he’s really worried about is picking up a Nebraska electoral college vote again in 2012, he may think this solves his problems.

Regardless of whatever political calculus is happening behind the scenes, I was impressed by the unequivocal tone of the Jones’ email.  It can’t sit well with the White House, because the President is clearly looking for a way to approve the pipeline. Calling for mass civil unrest if Obama does so will not only inflame Jones’s rabid right-wing critics (of which he has many), but it may be something he actually has to follow through on.

After Obama threw him under the bus, Van could have done many things.  He chose to join the Center for American Progress, the think-tank whose job it is to slap the “good liberal seal of approval” on decidedly non-progressive things the White House wants to do, like perpetuating the War in Afghanistan.  (CAP recently told Politico that environmentalists will be satisfied if Obama simply punts on the piepline until after the election, because “people who are concerned about this will feel he has been listening to them.”)

And he also recently launched his Rebuild the Dream organization, which clearly hopes to be on the receiving end of the massive Democratic 2012 election money gravy train.  Maybe it just wasn’t flowing fast enough, and this was a warning shot.  But now Van has put himself on the line, and even if Obama does punt, the Keystone XL pipeline will nonetheless continue to be a front-burner election issue with the young people Obama must turn out in 2012 — people with whom Jones has quite a bit of influence.

I just don’t think we live in a world where the oil companies don’t ultimately get their way, and some route for the pipeline isn’t approved. I look forward to participating in civil disobedience with Van Jones to protest construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, regardless of who is residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when it happens.

Photo: Jon Walker