August 26, 2011

My MLK Memorial: Getting Arrested Opposing Tar Sands Oil

Today I’m going to get arrested. But before I do I’m going to visit someone who did it many times over 50 years ago. 

This morning before I go to the White House to participate in the Tar Sands Action I’m going to visit the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial before it’s official dedication this Sunday, on the anniversary of Dr. King’s “Dream” Speech. I want to pay homage to King’s legacy and remind myself of the rich and patriotic history that civil disobedience has in our country.

Every major American social movement has used civil disobedience to achieve things we sometimes take for granted: the 40 hour work week, women’s right to vote, abolition of slavery, and countless more. Today I am getting arrested out of reverence for those that have gone before me.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson recently observed that if Dr. King where alive today he would be “marching for clean air, clean water, and clean communities for every person.”

This is why I’m joining the over 300 people who have already been arrested at the White House protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. This proposed pipeline would be the largest industrial project on the planet and would pump filthy Canadian tar sands oil, that produces three times the carbon pollution of traditional oil, through my heartland home state of Kansas down to the Gulf.

For many this is matter of survival. Indigenous communities in Canada and the Northern US have been fighting tar sands development for years. It has destroyed their lands and is literally making them sick. Many of them don’t have the means to join us at the White House today, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to put my body on the line in solidarity with their years of struggle.

Civil disobedience is a privilege. In many other countries this same action would be met with government gunfire. Today I will celebrate a rich American tradition and exercise my first amendment rights to freedom of assembly and free speech.

Freedom is about choice. And this all comes down to one man’s choice: President Obama, will you join us and stand up to Big Oil? 

In April when President Obama met with Power Shift leaders at theWhite House he gave us some advice: “Push me. My job is to govern, and yours is to push me.” Mr. President, we are doing just that.

Through our efforts we have seen him demonstrate leadership and stand up to Big Oil. The ball is in his court. We still have hope that he will do it again.

Across the county young people are standing up to dirty energy corporations and creating a healthier future with demands for a 100% clean energy economy. Like those before us we know our future is at stake and are compelled to follow the curve of history’s moral arc as it bends toward justice and civil rights. Lisa Jackson recently summed it up best, “healthy air and clean water and a clean, safe place to live are civil rights.”

This Sunday, when President Obama speaks at the MLK memorial dedication my hope is that he doesn’t just honor the man but also the values and tactics of the movement that he helped inspire.


Keep pushin' Ethan. Inspiring stuff.