The four-hour event began at the Washington Monument, where politicians and leaders of various eco-groups gave motivational speeches to the crowd.
“We have an obligation to our one true Mother,” said Crystal Lameman, a Beaver Lake Cree Nation activist. “We take care of her, she’ll take care of us, providing and nurturing. But when we ignore that and choose greed and wealth and economy that is not stable, she will fight back.”
After more than an hour of standing in the cold, the ‘Forward on Climate’ protesters finally embarked on their march from the Washington Monument to the White House, chanting, waving signs and beating on drums.
“Obama, come out! We’ve got some things to talk about,” the crowd shouted as they neared the White House.
The pipeline would transfer fossil fuels from Canada to the Gulf Coast refineries. Environmentalists worry that the construction of such a cross-country pipe would damage the planet and contribute to global warming. Some people at the protest carried signs that claimed “all pipes leak,” expressing concern that the Keystone XL could pollute the ecosystems through which it would travel.
The rhetoric of the day was pro-Obama, with the ‘Forward on Climate’ signs designed to look like Obama’s 2012 campaign materials. Ultimately, the President holds the power to move the Keystone project forward, and eco-groups believe he would be breaking his promise to do something about climate change in his second term if he approved the pipeline.
The speakers at the protest also pitted the grassroots green movement against Washington special interests and the oil industry.
“They’ve got the lobbyists,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told the crowd. “They’ve got the Super PACs. They made the campaign contributions. They’ve got this town in their pockets — they have got the situation under control. And then you show up. And then we show up. And we change the game.”
There were also hints of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ campaign, as one speaker mentioned the 99 percent and some members of the crowd claimed to be part of the anti-establishment crusade that swept the nation in 2012.
Those in favor of the pipeline argue that it would provide jobs, and the project has support in both the House and Senate. The Keystone XL is also slated to give the U.S. more energy independence.
Molly Braswell contributed to this report.