Part one of an eight part series.
Published September 15, 2011 by Political Context.
Only Death Will Save Us
“Only death will save us. Mediocrity begets mediocrity. It is tragic that the conditioning of civil society is so deep – that most everything relevant beating them on the head is received as nothing more than a cool breeze.” — Harold One Feather
What are the underlying motivations and loyalties of the social and political forces involved in the Tar Sands Action campaign, and, indeed, the bourgeois environmental movement as a whole? In our inability to avert an oncoming ecological collapse, coupled with what appears to be an insurmountable climate genocide, we must understand how the forces we seek to resist constantly absorb opposition, through compromised NGOs and other means. Never underestimate the strategies and mechanisms of the global elites for retaining their power, control, and domination of Earth and her inhabitants.
Cognitive dissonance compromises environmental activism. We must open our eyes, even if the ugliness is difficult to accept. Many seemingly credible activists who are paid to “lead” environmental organizations cannot admit to themselves that they have caved into the very systems they purport to oppose; there is no acceptable excuse for such lack of judgement and foresight – for if it is ignorance, it is willful. It is no longer singular individuals who create and shape our systems. Instead, the plutocrats construct and mould the systems and sustain illusory movements. As the majority of environmentalists and citizens who support such movements are not fully conscious of the role they play in propping up the industrial machine, this article attempts to inspire the courage to break free, re-organize, and move forward.
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” — Elwyn Brooks White
Remix version 2011:
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to enjoy the world and a desire to tear down the systemic structure that is destroying the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
Prologue — Lambs to the Slaughter
“As with any pathologically-based manifestation, hegemonic pacifism in advanced capitalist contexts proves itself supremely resistant – indeed, virtually impervious – to mere logic and moral suasion.” — Ward Churchill, Pacifism as Pathology, 1984
Holding hands, singing songs, and forming circles has little effect beyond making individuals feel good about themselves. Of course, this is the main objective of the mainstream NGO: to appeal to one of our ugliest human traits – that of individualism, which our toxic culture celebrates. Such niceties also serve as fine fodder for media and for rounding up donations.
To have falsely promoted what was at best an educational campaign (which did not speak to the root causes of climate change) as “civil disobedience” was disingenuous, if not fraudulent. Yet, the NGOs continue to promote their publicity stunt under this guise. And it worked. Branding agencies and marketing executives will take note of this latest “success.” In truth, this (in)action merely succeeded in having seduced the public into a false belief that this system, into which violence is inherently built, can be overcome with moral suasion. At the eleventh hour, campaigning to build upon such a notion is not only incredibly deceiving – it is incredibly dangerous.
Organizations both within and outside of the nonprofit-industrial complex continue to unabashedly further the idea that passiveness, obedience and submissiveness to the corporatized state – which has made the conscious decision to allow billions to suffer and die – is the only moral choice. They insist that we must dismiss reality (that the Earth and her inhabitants are being killed all around us) while they dismiss the fact that moral suasion cannot stop this. They insist that we embrace their delusion at any cost. Tragically, such a suicidal position only serves to further weaken our own position as it strengthens the position of the corporate state tenfold. Like lambs, we are being led to the slaughter with stops all along the way for refreshments and photo ops. It’s the final step in the art of annihilation that the NGOs have adherently become so skilled at. The puppet masters are shaking in their boots, not with fear but with derisive laughter.
Those who know better, who choose to lend legitimacy to such organizations by way of supporting or promoting such grand spectacles of illusion, are in fact biting their own foot. Some of the statements heard echoing off the walls of delusion are “But where would we go?” and “Yes, I know, I agree, but it’s better than nothing.” Yet subduing and disempowering citizens is not better than nothing. And silence is complicity.
A “better than nothing” approach for a campaign such as Tar Sands Action is deeply flawed. By supporting / promoting compromised organizations and/or leaders of such compromised organizations, one provides a tract of general legitimacy for those who continue to prop up the malignant, capitalistic system and guarantee planetary demise while undermining the grassroots. Right or wrong, when we vocalize support or otherwise endorse such sanitized “actions” and the players behind them, we are seen as sanctioning them on the whole, and it makes walking the fine line of organizing an effective movement much more difficult.
Directing thousands of well-intentioned citizens to follow a false god with the last name of McKibben – whose organization (350.org/1Sky) is funded, overseen and partnered with the planet’s most powerful corporations and families – only ensures that society will be led to believe in the false illusion of “green capitalism” – what the corporate enviros have termed “climate wealth.” In McKibben’s own words: “Greed Has Helped Destroy the Planet – Maybe Now It Can Help Save It.” A vision based on rejecting ethics while further nurturing one of the worst human traits is one that any sane person working towards a just world must automatically reject. A vision based on the very same system that has now brought us to the precipice is a fool’s game, a deadly game that flies in the face of logic.
Many of the corporate greens can demonstrate strong points in regard to many issues – this is of little surprise as it is imperative for them to retain a level of credibility. Furthermore, they have millions of dollars available for specialized reports, which makes it easy. Of course, rarely will they campaign on such reports when they are released (quietly in most cases) to the public. We have to accept the fact that much of the environmental movement is now funded primarily with Rockefeller Family money (McKibben himself now states this proudly after a somewhat embarrassing incident on Climate Challenge TV) and corporate funnelled foundation money, which defines (dilutes) success in increments that, in the grand scheme of things, mean little. We can’t tolerate another 6,000 mW of coal active in FL, for example, but that is a victory to the Beyond Coal campaign because they managed to stop another 13K mW. In the next cycle, industry will again ask for 20K mW, and will get 5-8k mW. And that will be labeled another victory. At which point are these victories pyrrhic?
Eyes Wide Shut – Death by Denial
April 2011 Statement by the Indigenous Women of the Movement:
We felt that this was not an issue of semantics, that this was deliberately being taught to our peoples, our youth and our communities by the interests of government and corporations, who we began finding out more and more, were actually helping to fund well-paid activists who ran well-funded workshops, training and retreats on “non-violence” and “civil disobedience.” Some of this was traced back to funding which came from “ethical oil” strategies, and that’s when we started realizing the sickening accuracy of our premonitions…. We believe in honouring the dreams of women, in freeing ourselves from judgement and bias, decolonizing our minds and our hearts. We believe in being action-oriented, not paper-oriented. We don’t need Canada’s approval or consent, and we don’t need government or corporate funding. We have always had what we will always need: the Kaianerenkowa, the Medicine Wheel, our teachings, our clan systems, our languages, our ceremonies…. We can empower ourselves, we don’t need to wait for an NGO or a suit to tell us how to feel empowered. We aren’t the ones who need “non violence training”; the ones who need to stop using violence are the ones in power: police, government and corporations.
In the article “A Tar Sands Partnership Agreement in the Making?” social justice activist and journalist Macdonald Stainsby writes: “Many other foundations – most but not all American – now play the same game of social manipulation in the environmental field. Foundations such as Rockefeller Brothers, Ford and Hewlett have not only entered into the fray in a major way, in the case of the tar sands campaigns, they have collaborated with the Pew to take social manipulation to a new level.”
What the manipulated public does not understand, is the fact that, while these environmental groups have had years to unite behind a sane, comprehensive, unified energy policy that would have included opposition to tar sands and oil shale, and other false solutions, they have done nothing to this effect.
The money powers (who fund our “movement”) have decided that clean, zero-carbon, everlasting energy will not take over from fossil fuel energy or even increase its market share (see International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook 2010). The money powers do this consciously, in the face of evidence that the failure to make such a transition spells the end of the world. The insane logic behind such policy is that, as fossil fuel resources run out, corporations will increase profits. The devastating consequences for the biosphere are ignored.
We are hence warned once again that the campaigns dominating our movement are nothing more than impromptu, “whatever is popular at the moment,” laissez-faire, feel-good public relations escapades. This is not a movement that has any chance of staving off guaranteed climate genocide on top of multiple global crises, all happening simultaneously.
Corporate environmentalism is merely a movement designed to make us feel good today – much like capitalism – while killing us slowly.
From climate change, to the BP oil spill, then onto the tar sands bandwagon, these symbolic campaigns are orchestrated and echoed throughout the faux environmental movement.
Is the Left Suffering from Stockholm Syndrome?
Hooray for Change!
“Somehow we need to get back the President we thought we elected in 2008. We are just now finishing up the largest civil disobedience in this country in this century. We won’t attack the President. We will only hold him to the standard he set in 2008. We have been arrested for two weeks straight, but without bitterness or hate. Only joy and resolve.” — Bill McKibben
To believe Obama or the state will be moved by moral suasion as bombs are dropped on occupied countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya while covert U.S. wars are underway in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia – murdering untold numbers of men, women and children – all in the name of resource exploitation (under the egregious auspices of democracy and liberation) is nothing more than delusion bordering on insanity.
Let’s break this down.
“Somehow we need to get back the President we thought we elected in 2008.”
First of all, the president that the people “thought” they elected in 2008 has proven himself (beyond a doubt) a mere voicebox for the plutocracy and a bona fide war criminal.
“We are just now finishing up the largest civil disobedience in this country in this century.”
Secondly, the Tar Sands Action must not be considered true civil disobedience when it was sanctioned by the state, while demonstrating to the state absolute compliance. It is only a massive withdrawal of compliance that actually has any possibility of even slight effect. Civil disobedience draws its strength from open confrontation and noncooperation – not from evasion or subterfuge. History has proven this time and time again. Demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of citizens have failed in a world of corporate-dominated government. Case in point would be the protests against the illegal invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and Britain. This was the largest global civil disobedience in our history. Citizens numbered in the millions. Yet the occupation continues to this day. As citizens, we can only retain as much power as we refuse to relinquish to the state. If one insists on calling the Tar Sands Action in Washington, D.C. a true civil disobedience, it is a sad reflection on what the meaning and intent of true civil disobedience has been reduced to.
Third, to call 1253 trained protesters (with the exception of the first day, all who were arrested over the course of the two weeks were released within an hour or two – approximately 90 people per day including the elite “leaders” and staff of a slew of mainstream NGOs) “the largest civil disobedience in this country in this century” is delusional. There have been protests against globalization in the U.S. in which citizens numbered in the thousands.
“We won’t attack the President. We will only hold him to the standard he set in 2008.”
Fourth point – citizens are extremely fortunate to have John Pilger and others who will attack the president openly, as the public needs and deserves to hear the truth. Why would any rational person hold Obama to a fantasy standard, when we know, based on his actions to date and our knowledge of corporate dominance, that Obama will never meet any standard that could stop the ongoing ecocide?
“We have been arrested for two weeks straight, but without bitterness or hate. Only joy and resolve.”
Fifth point – We should be bitter, pissed off, furious and sickened that our planet is being killed and that our children are going to not live long enough to reach old age. The myth that emotions such as bitterness, hate and anger are destructive prevents us from trusting our own intuition based on our life experiences. As we stand on the precipice, bitterness, hate and anger are all normal feelings upon coming to the full realization that the corporate state has chosen economic growth over life itself. Those who protect it are deserving of our bitterness and hatred. And if you’re not angry that our planet is being raped before our eyes – then perhaps you have forgotten what love is.
“In the run-up to the UN climate change conference in December 09, an advertising industry initiative, ‘Hopenhagen,’ was supported by Coca-Cola, DuPont and BMW, among others. Clearly, some organisations do not grasp the concept of irony. Nevertheless, more than six million people from around the world signed up. Hamilton wonders when such well-meaning individuals will begin to think ‘I have been doing the right thing for years, but the news about global warming just keeps getting worse.’ In other words, when will the dreadful reality hit home?
“…Clinging to hopefulness becomes a means of forestalling the truth. Sooner or later we must respond, and that means allowing ourselves to enter a phase of desolation and hopelessness, in short to grieve.
“…Painful though it is to do so, we come to terms with grief and loss. We mourn, we feel periods of shock and anger; slowly, we adjust. Adjustments may be unhealthy – denial, as we have seen, or apathy or nihilism. A healthy adjustment involves accepting the loss, making it part of who we are and what we will become.” — Clive Hamilton, Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change
Of course McKibben (and his disciples, whom he apparently believes he speaks for) have no bitterness or hate, only joy and resolve as their greatest sacrifice (by only a handful) was 48 hours in jail while the rest paid a hundred bucks and were home in time to watch themselves on the 4 o’clock news. One can appreciate the good intentions of citizens who are no doubt desperate to somehow make a difference. Yet at the same time it must be acknowledged that we are becoming completely out of touch with reality if we choose to lend the words “sacrifice” and “courage” to educational outreach media blitz campaigns.
One must wonder if McKibben would feel such “hope” for the president if his family was murdered in one of the occupied countries Obama continues to pummel with bombs. One must wonder if McKibben would be such a kind and kindred spirit to Obama if he was on the other end of the stick of industrialized capitalism – working in a mine developing lung cancer in order to feed his children one meal a day. If the Left is buying into this charade – and it appears they are – we must the conclude that the emasculated Left is indeed suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.
In psychology, Stockholm syndrome is a term used to describe a real paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness. (Source: Wikipedia)
Video: Obama celebrates Earth Day. (Running time: 0:44)
“In concrete terms, this means … civil disobedience; and life and death confrontations with the powers that be. Like King, we need to put on our cemetery clothes and be coffin-ready for the next great democratic battle.” — Cornel West, Dr. King Weeps From His Grave, New York Times, 26 August 2011
It’s time we remove our comfortable cocoons of self-righteousness and moral superiority and fully recognize / acknowledge that we are all participating in a culture where violence is now inherently built into the system. Thus we all have blood on our hands and there can be no denying this fact.
The movement must choose for what type of future we wish to fight. A future of the people, by the people, for the people? Or a future of the corporations (i.e. corporations via foundations), by the corporations, for the corporations (i.e., commodification of the last remaining elements of nature; continued violence until the remaining elements of nature are destroyed, or mass extinction by way of climate genocide a.k.a. green capitalism)?
We must choose one. We cannot have both.
Choosing the first provides a future for all life our Earth graciously sustains. It will not be given. It must be taken.
Further, the future we resolve to claim must be articulated.
Meanwhile in the real world of activism (being eclipsed by the state-sanctioned Tar Sands Action and its negotiated arrests), more Amazon Rainforest activists receive death threats as assassinations escalate. Closer to home, in Messina, New York, on 11 August 2011, Larry Thompson, a Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) man was arrested. Thompson, “sick of waiting for a General Motors Superfund site cleanup that will never happen,” took a backhoe to a toxic landfill site. “Thompson drove onto the notoriously polluted mound, scooped up contaminated soil and loaded it into railroad cars that were waiting to cart away debris from the GM building that is being torn down in the wake of bankruptcy proceedings…. Larry was given this order by the Clan Mother. She directed him to do this. So he had to do it. No matter what, she is the supreme law of the land.” Of course, the criminals that poisoned the land (i.e. those responsible for the violence) continue to walk free.
A Very Civil Civil Disobedience
“I believe it’s a crime for anyone being brutalized to continue to accept that brutality without doing something to defend himself.” — Malcolm X
“When, in the course of human development, existing institutions prove inadequate to the needs of man, when they serve merely to enslave, rob, and oppress mankind, the people have the eternal right to rebel against, and overthrow, these institutions.” — Emma Goldman
20 August 2011: The article “A Very Civil Civil Disobedience” said it all. Anything other than submissive obedience to the police state is not to be considered “civil.” The word “civil” is loaded. How “civilized” is a society whose very existence is dependent upon the violent and relentless assault on the planet, while simultaneously exploiting the struggling classes?
Organizing citizens to get themselves peacefully arrested in order to “appeal to the better nature of Obama” are based on a delusional strategy. Appeals to Obama and other members of the ruling class serve to distract us from the unwillingness of states to change their practices without being forced to do so. Mainstream environmentalists’ calls for “rolling sit-ins” (10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. daily) and other passive tactics would be considered by many to be an insult to activists throughout the world who have fought against state and police repression with their very lives.
Who knew you would have to RSVP to the “revolution,” agree to the conditions, be trained by God himself, and that a dress code would be in effect? On 28 August 2011, a participant to the Tar Sands Action sent out a mass email to her lists. Within the communiqué she states, “The action was relatively simple, to be honest, and I don’t feel super brave for ‘risking arrest’ when it was a simple procedure and a $100 fine. (A ‘post and forfeit’ thing, similar to a traffic violation, not a misdemeanor or anything that would be likely to taint a record). It was fun to ride in the paddy wagon with 15 other awesome activists, kinda like a sauna. The cops were nice to us and some of us helped educate them on why we were there. (The organizers are encouraging everyone to cooperate and pay the fine, to seem dignified in the media, and to keep the story on the pipeline rather than on ‘us vs. them’ with the parks police. Yet they did say that, if we’re not listened to here, perhaps for a future action the strategy may be different.)”
And although the McKibben show pumps out headlines loaded with words such as “terrified”, “scared out of my mind”, “risk arrest”, and on and on, Darryl Hannah (the ultimate triumph for any campaign in today’s celebrity-obsessed culture) topped them all off, proclaiming “Sometimes it’s necessary to sacrifice your freedom for a greater freedom.”?These words/descriptions are so over-the-top (to be kind), they are ludicrous. Let’s be honest – most of us cannot even begin to comprehend what real sacrifice means. Here is another much more honest commentary posted on September 1, 2011:
“Getting arrested in the Tar Sands Action was fun and it felt like the right and responsible thing to do. The scariest part of it was navigating the D.C. Metro. No, that’s not exactly true. It was the anticipation of navigating the D.C. Metro that terrified me, not the actual navigation. … The female officer took my ID but stuffed my money back in my bra. Then they took my mug shot, handed me my ID and squeezed me into the paddy wagon with Kidder. It was very hot and close in there but we joked around with the cute police officers, told stories and had a pretty good time…. I was released at 12:46 p.m.” (The author notes she was arrested at 11:33 a.m.)
Question: Does this demonstration have a permit, or are we by attending breaking a regulation?
Answer: As long as you are on the sidewalk in front of the White House and keep moving you aren’t breaking any regulations. The action organizers have applied for permits to be on the sidewalk in front of the White House for the entirety of the action.
Question: What should we do if there are opponents trying to disrupt the action or people who start to act outside of the agreed Action Guidelines?
Answer: Dealing with inappropriate escalation (or confrontation from our opponents) is going to be a main duty of the support team that will be on site for every action. They’ll be ready to talk with folks who seem to be getting out of hand and to help direct energy to the more strategic, productive parts of the action.
Did Rosa Parks obtain a permit from the state before she decided she would sit at the front of the bus? Why do citizens choose to submit to an authority who that tells us / convinces us that we must seek approval to stand on a public sidewalk, a sidewalk that has been paid for by the people themselves?
State Sanctioned “Civil Disobedience” & Propaganda Wars
20 August 2011: The article “Tar-sands protesters in jail longer than expected” states:
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.
The article continues:
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. [Emphasis added]
We can sense that the author is appalled the police did not honor their pre-arranged deal. He appears to be outraged that middle class citizens were inconvenienced for 48 hours or more. The author continues that another “action” earlier this year ran into a similar situation where “despite many weeks of communication between the protest organizers and various state, county and local government officials, agreements to camp overnight were revoked.” Such comments reveal how state-sanctioned “civil disobedience” has become normalized. But no worries, the author plans to hope and pray that the tar sands “action” will “rise to the occasion” – whatever that means in real life.
In a true act of civil disobedience, one adopts a position of absolute non-cooperation with the state, the perpetrator of both violence and oppression. No prior negotiations. No obedience.
Adding further Orwellian bizarreness, it was announced in a media advisory issued 1st September 2011, by the Indigenous Environmental Network what would occur on the following day: “Native Americans and First Nations to be arrested at White House protesting TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline.”
Recognizing that this protest involved several hundred well-intentioned individuals looking for direction and a way to make a difference, the Washington, D.C. “civil disobedience” cannot truly be considered disobedient when it has been organized with the very state they are supposedly resisting. Prior to the action, the organizers fully engaged / conversed with police in order to find out exactly what risk they would be susceptible to in undertaking such a protest in Washington, D.C. en masse. We see this over and over again. It is only once it is established that the “approved” action will be most benevolent with trivial consequences (no real risk) that the privileged classes then build upon such campaigns. The ruling class does not fear such campaigns in the least.
Yes … the state will undoubtedly be so moved by our arguments and our good behaviour that it will voluntarily, someday soon, overthrow itself and join us in a circle of sing-songs.
States only fear acts of civil disobedience and direct actions when they threaten to disrupt the system through a demonstration of overwhelming strength. They do not respond to appeals to morality or guilt. When a protest is controlled, sanctioned and supported by the state, the action will not be feared, because the state will never fear what it can control. Planting seeds of love is a beautiful thing, yet on their own, in the absence of struggle and true sacrifice, such seeds of love have never won any revolutions.
Tar Sands Action Civil Obedience Campaign
Naomi Klein should be mortified at promoting and participating in such a staged event – as she knows better. In her book “No Logo: Taking Aim at Brand Bullies” (2000), Klein remarks: “Since the days when Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies infused self-conscious absurdity to their ‘happenings,’ political protest had lapsed into a ritualized affair, following a fairly unimaginative grid of repetitive chants and scripted police confrontation.”
Nine Nobel Peace Laureates including “Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama” have written to President Obama, urging him to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. A media release states that “the opposition to the pipeline has surged in recent weeks as more than 1,250 people were arrested in 14 days of sit-ins at the White House – perhaps the largest wave of civil disobedience ever for an environmental cause in the U.S…. In asking you to make this decision we recognize the thousands of Americans who risked arrest to protest in front of the White House between August 20th and September 3rd. These brave individuals have spoken movingly about experiencing the power of nonviolence in that time.”
And there is the language, the sound bites, highlighted yet again to further pacify our public as our multiple crises escalate: references to religion and the “power of non-violence” when speaking to civil disobedience and arrests. McKibben and friends had to have recognized and taken solace in the fact that the public is severely naïve to have even attempted to pass off the state-sanctioned orchestrated event as true civil disobedience.
What kind of civil disobedience is it where the police themselves carefully fold up protesters’ banners (with weapons completely exposed) and collect the protest signs prior to the arrests? It is telling that the “Park Police” were placed in charge of the daily 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. rolling sit-ins. It appears that the only exception was the initial week-end, commencing Saturday, August 20th, the first day of arrests (which included McKibben) when the D.C. police arrested the protesters and held the non-resident arrestees until Monday.
It also appears that no one other than McKibben and participants from his group ever went to jail. (A media bonanza that legitimized McKibben). All other trained arrestees for the remaining 2 weeks were police-escorted (motorcycle escorts with sirens wailing) to the Anacostia station of the Park Police where they simply paid a $100 fine. During training, the organizers instructed the participants to pay the fine rather than opt to go to jail – stating that otherwise, the police would get angry and treat subsequent arrestees less courteously. The multiple references comparing this “civil disobedience” to the sacrifice and bravery demonstrated during the civil rights movement, as well as references to Martin Luther King throughout this campaign, are abominable. In reality, in direct contrast to civil disobedience, this “action” must be considered an act of passive civil obedience.
How is it that North America has become so completely removed from reality? How is it that such weak and cowardly leadership – so out of touch with what is happening all over the world – can be considered noble, rather than what it really is – an embarrassment?
The photos below from the Tar Sands Actions Flickr account tell a story far more revealing than anything anyone can attempt to reveal in a piece of writing. The intention was to include photos of people smiling and laughing when placed under arrest. Unfortunately it is not possible, simply because there are too many that fall under this description. In fact, this action may be the happiest and most enjoyable “civil disobedience” to have ever been presented to the public. Let’s have a look:
Protesters were trained to march up to the front of the fence. The protesters lined up and were then adjusted by the organizers. Citizens were permitted to walk into the front area, however, they were not permitted to remain in this area as it was reserved for tourists and media to take photographs. The police gave three warnings for the protesters to leave or be arrested. Citizens who did not wish to be arrested left the area. It was at this point the police assisted in carefully gathering up the signs and banners and placed barricades at all sides of the arrestees (the back is a fence). Processing was done on site (see above). Then the arrestees were driven for approximately ten minutes to the Anacostia station of the Park Police where they finalized paperwork, paid a $100 fine and were released (with the exception of August 20th). The yellow tape reads ‘Police Scene – Do Not Cross’.
Left: A 350 supporter is arrested by the Park Police. The first people arrested, including McKibben, were turned over to the D.C. police who unexpectedly kept them 48 hours (as this is not what the organizers had negotiated in advance). Following this initial arrest it was then managed by the Park Police who were apparently very nice. They handcuffed and took the trained protesters to a tent where they were frisked. The arrestees were then brought inside the tent where their photo was taken. They were then given a number and placed on a bus or wagon. (The buses were air conditioned and the wagons were hot). Arrestees were then police escorted to a station where the Park Police removed the plastic zip handcuffs, checked ID once more, took the money, and then sent the released protestors off towards the Metro. We can only hope the approx. $130,000 raised by the police, goes to the park to assist with the trees dying from polluting ozone. We can only assume the police escort was necessary in order to prevent any real protesters from trying to beat some sense into them.
Compare the Tar Sands Action to civil disobedience in other countries who are being brutally oppressed and exploited by the violent system we participate in on a daily basis. Apathy in the face of injustice is also a form of violence.
Photo above: An indigenous woman holds her child while trying to resist the advance of Amazonas state police who were expelling the woman and some 200 other members of the Landless Movement from a privately-owned tract of land on the outskirts of Manaus, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, March 11, 2008. The landless peasants tried in vain to resist the eviction with bows and arrows against police using tear gas and trained dogs, and were evicted from the land. (REUTERS/Luiz Vasconcelos-A Critica/AE)
Two leaders of civil disobedience in North America: Betty Krawczyk (above) and the late Pacheedaht warrior Harriet Nahanee/Tsibeotl.
The Tar Sands Action organization, initiated and led by 350/1 Sky spokesperson Bill McKibben, actually has no plan in place for when the Keystone pipeline is approved by Obama. What escalating tactics will be pursued? What does the state have to fear?
Intoxicated by the idea that Obama can be won over with moral persuasion and reject a pipeline which promises billions in projected profits, and which will enable his crumbling empire to control North America’s oil this action is merely an educational campaign to draw attention to the appalling tar sands. And this is where the problem lies.
Citizens are being led to believe that pre-negotiated civil disobedience – one that assures no sacrifice or risk will be endured by citizens as long as they abide by the rules of the state – can stop the violence being waged upon our shared Earth. Not so. We know it will not. It never has, and never will. (See Pacifism and Pathology, by Ward Churchill, 2007 Version.)
We cling to our deep belief of business-as-usual. The inertia makes this easy. The gradual systemic violence upon us is a gentle, slow kill. This month feels no different than last month, therefore everything must be okay. Our intense desire for non-disruption in a life we perceive as non-violent traps us into a false belief system.
Cory Morningstar is climate justice activist whose recent writings can be found on Canadians for Action on Climate Change and The Art of Annihilation site where you can read her bio. You can follow her on Twitter: @elleprovocateur
Essay: Pacifism as Pathology by Ward Churchill; 1984: