Thursday, August 25, 2011

What Happened There - Kurt Nelson

What Happened...(#2 of my end of vacation series, describing my participation in non-violent civil disobedience, #1 if you missed it.)

August 25, 2011

Yesterday I was, for the first time, arrested. Today, I'm riding a train back home. All in all, life isn't so different. Here's an account of the past couple of days. More reflections are forthcoming.

On Tuesday evening, the 23rd, a group of 60 or so gathered to be trained in an Episcopal Church in Northern Washington DC. We talked about why we were there. And we heard from Gulf Coast Residents suffering from the ill effects of oil spills. We heard from a recently-released Bill McKibben. We heard from members and organizers of First Nations communities in Alberta, who are being stricken with cancer in high numbers, and who are losing the ability to live as they have for generations.

But mostly, we talked about the details of what was to come. Every question was answered, every possibility seemingly discussed. We were well trained and well prepared to engage the next day.

At 11 AM Wednesday morning, the 24th, a group of 75 or so demonstrators sat along the White House fence, holding signs and silence. We sought to bear witness to the damage being done by the Tar Sands oil extraction, and by the proposed further damage of the Keystone XL pipeline.

About half an hour later, we were told we were violating a Park Service law intended to keep people moving as they take pictures in front of the White House. We were issued 3 warnings, and 52 of us elected to be arrested.

The entire process was civil. No one resisted arrest, and the police officers were courteous and thoughtful. We were handcuffed, patted down, and taken to a truck and then the Anacostia holding center.

The process was almost disarmingly efficient. Paperwork was begun before we even entered the Paddy Wagon. We were charged with failure to obey a lawful order (which is akin to a parking violation) and given the option to "post and forfeit." The entire process took 3 or 4 hours, and I was back in Greenbelt, MD where I grew up, by 3:30.

Overall, I feel hopeful. People keep coming (322 arrested in total as of today). The New York Times published a scathing editorial about the pipeline. Articles about the action and the issue are showing up all over. And a letter was released by leaders of a dozen major environmental organizations yesterday afternoon. Civil action is being planned on the Canadian side of the border. It feels like a movement.

It feels like movement.

I'm glad I came. I'm thankful for all the supportive comments and messages. I'm appreciative of those with whom I demonstrated. I'm excited to see so many getting excited. I have some nice photos to share:

And I have hope that in this instance, our President will do the right thing.

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