August 27, 2011

Power Shift Is Forever

Rob Friedman being placed under arrest in front of the White House at the Tar Sands Action (Photo Credit: Josh Lopez)As I drove back to school from Power Shift '11, it hit me like a ton of bricks that my role as an organizer in the climate movement may be coming to a close, for at least the time being.  I had just been offered a job with an environmental organization in New York, and while its cause is very progressive, it didn't involve direct organizing.  While maybe a little silly, I basically thought I was leaving a movement that had given me so much.

When I first heard about the Tar Sands Action happening in DC, I briefly considered participating, but didn't actually give it much thought.  It just seemed like a big commitment and I didn't want to miss work.  I've always been extremely passionate, but never that radical.  But after coming to an understanding of just how dire this situation is and seeing pictures of my friends from across the country taking part in the demonstration, I knew I had to be there. So I left work for a few days and went to D.C. to demonstrate.

During the training session for the action, I met a man, age 63, from Spokane, Washington, who had come to D.C. for a very specific reason.  He had not participated in the civil rights movement, nor had he participated in protests against the Vietnam War.  He felt nervous and too scared at that time to speak up against the powers that be, despite being progressive.  But he came to D.C. two days ago because he felt that it was his time to speak out against injustice.  It was an honor to be at his side during the action.

Yesterday morning, I was arrested with 58 other brave patriots from all over the country, representing almost every age group.  We had come to D.C. to demonstrate against the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline that will essentially be the icing on the cake for a destroyed climate.  I decided to wear an Obama shirt to serve as a reminder of the inspiring, environmentally conscious figure who I voted and campaigned for in 2008, but who has totally lost me since. He still has the chance to get me back, but that rests on his decision regarding this pipeline.

The entire experience of being arrested for something I so passionately believe in is one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had.  And it really wasn't all that bad. Yes, I was handcuffed, locked up in a very hot police van for perhaps a little too long, and then briefly held in a holding pen, but it was beyond worth it.  Thus far, 381 brave activists of all ages (17-87) and backgrounds have been arrested in 7 days of demonstrating.  And more will follow. By the end of the action, it's likely that close to 1,000 activists will be arrested.

I'm asking you to join them.  I know you may think you're too busy, I did, but I implore you to consider coming to Washington D.C. to participate in the Tar Sands Action.  Obama and Obama alone has the authority to either confirm or deny the permits for this catastrophic project.  He'll make his decision in the next few months.  We must send him a strong message that we need him to be bold and prevent the Keystone XL Pipeline from ever being built.

I hope that you will join the Tar Sands Action in person, but if you cannot, I suggest taking the time to call the White House to voice your concern.  More info on that here

As I sat there in front of the White House, stone-faced and solemn, chanting with my fellow activists as we were handcuffed one by one, it struck me that I will always be a part of this movement, this Power Shift, whether I think I am or not.  It is beyond a part of my soul, my very essence, and for that fact I could not be more grateful. You're never out of this movement - Power Shift is forever. 

In solidarity,

Rob Friedman


Always pushing! Can't stop, won't stop - that's my motto.

Robert, I also attended the POWERSHIFT 2011 Conference with you this past spring. I am a recent graduate from Unity College and also attended the Maine Breakout session. Having recently graduated I also came to the same realization that you did; about my direct action for climate change and it coming to an end. But upon reading your blog you inspired me, because as long as one is passionate it is never over. I appreciate all that you and the 58 other people did as an action to stand up for the environment and against people and companies that don’t realize its importance.

Thank you for the courage to be arrested over this. I hope it does some good. And thanks for your commentary on Obama - if he approves this pipeline I'll be supporting the Green Party guy - and trying to convince other young folks to abandon the Democrats as well.

Thank you Rob for taking action to draw more attention to the problem. He told us at Power Shift to push him. Thanks for pushing. We need you in New York pushing too.