Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bay Area Activists Prepare for Direct Action to Stop Keystone XL Pipeline

On March 23, activists from across the Bay Area who want to stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline converged on the Federal Building in San Francisco to hold group civil disobedience training exercises.

The day began with an Idle No More Round Dance. Activists acknowledged they were on Ohlone land, and offered prayers, then individuals spoke about Idle No More and began the dance, which was followed by a singing of the American Indian Movement anthem. 

Later, approximately 200-300 people were in attendance for the direct action training. The large group broke into four smaller groups, with each essentially conducting the same training exercises. 

Individuals practiced interlocking arms as a method of holding physical ground, and role-playing exercises were held in preparation for close contact with the police. 

Activists with previous experience in nonviolent direct action led the training exercises and were available to answer questions from those who had not participated in such actions before. 

For example, trainers suggested appealing to police officers on a human level when contacted, to communicate directly about the purpose of the action and how it affects all of humanity, and to look the authorities straight in the eyes. 

At the same time, trainers explained that police are often heavily outfitted with gear, and when one woman asked what to do if officers were wearing helmets with shields that covered their faces, one trainer said, "look to where their eyes should be," in order to speak directly to them. 

Where and when the direct action aimed at stopping the completion of the XL Keystone pipeline project will occur has yet to be announced, but San Francisco Police weren't taking any chances with the large crowd; there were at least two to three dozen officers on hand at the federal building, and nearby, for the training exercises. 

Organizers were listed as Bay Area, Tar Sands Blockade, Idle No More, and Rising Tide S.F., and together they released the following statement, which explains why they think direct action is necessary at this point: 

"We have written letters, made phone calls, educated ourselves and others, demonstrated in the tens of thousands, participated in Idle No More flash mobs, and been arrested at the White House as we push President Obama to stop the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline. Yet we have no sign that Obama will walk his climate talk and reject the pipeline. Additionally a 'deeply flawed' State Department environmental report indicates approval may be likely. It's time to organize ourselves to take nonviolent direct action where we live and to raise the social and political cost for approving what James Hansen calls "Game Over" for the climate. This training is part of the Tar Sands Blockade week of Action." 

S.F. Federal Building

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