Draw The Line on Keystone XL: A Personal Story


Are you joining a “Draw the Line” event on September 21st? As many of our Climate Mamas and Papas know, at ClimateMama we have strongly advocated for and support a final and resounding NO decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. Yet, again and again, this pipeline keeps “coming back.” In case you needed one more reason to say no, please read this powerful and heartfelt post by Amanda Frayer, which first appeared on LindsayDahl.com on September 3rd, 2013, and which we are reposting with permission. Share it with the kids in your life. It’s Do Something Wednesday at ClimateMama and we wanted to inspire you and your kids with this “real life” story of action, adventure, sacrifice and hope. Are you joining an event on September 21st? Let us know…

Civil disobedience: If Grandma can do it so can you
Guest post by Amanda Frayer – artist, activist, friend

Tomorrow, I face the judge. If I’m lucky all that means is peeing in a cup in front of a female guard, then receiving a community service assignment. But who really knows when you’re at the mercy of the system. I’m prepared for an experience as dysfunctional and sobering as the one I had in city cell-block last month.

Credit: Creative Commons/Flickr Tar Sands Action

I am one of the 75,000 people who pledged to engage in peaceful civil disobedience against the Keystone XL Pipeline. This pipeline would pump a highly toxic and carbon-intensive oil called bitumen from the Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada, across the United States to oil refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. I made the pledge, because I believe allowing the pipeline to be built means “game over” for a clean environment, and game over for the many communities along its 1700-mile route.

I have come to believe that attending rallies is not enough. Across this country, law-abiding citizens just like me are being driven to extremes—some have even taken to the trees to halt construction of the pipeline through Texas. I was arrested with a group of people who walked 100 miles from Camp David to Washington, DC in the brutal summer heat. Many were grandparents who wore shirts that said “Walk for our Grandchildren.”

Together, we paid a surprise visit to Environmental Resource Management, a consultancy for Big Oil hired by the State Department to analyze the environmental impacts of the pipeline. The so-called “experts” who wrote the statement had plenty of ties to TransCanada, the pipeline’s builder, and other energy companies who would benefit from the project. Mother Jones exposed that the State Department redacted their work histories to hide this glaring conflict of interest. The State Department’s Inspector General is now investigating.

After occupying the building lobby for about a half hour, 54 of us were arrested. The police put zip-ties around our wrists and led us to the paddy wagons as we sang “We Shall not be Moved.” All told, I endured confinement for the next 14 hours. At first, I just reminded myself, The real criminals are ERM and the State Department. What’s happening here is upside-down. Downplaying the risks of the KXL pipeline, as they have done, is reckless and endangers our very existence. They should be sitting in this cell, not me.

But this thought carried me only a short stretch. I studied the ceiling from the top of a metal bunk. My eyes followed the crooked seams of soldering and formed ugly pictures in the stains. I suddenly felt like a child, sent to my room without supper. I listened to a man nearby boast about his exploits with prostitutes—presumably why he was picked up. He seemed not to notice that he was in a sardine-can, as if being arrested was simply routine.

Frustration mounted when several of us were handcuffed a second time and moved to another precinct for processing. We were promptly photographed and finger-printed, only to languish for hours longer. We received a single bologna sandwich, a cup of red Kool-aid, and a wad of toilet paper. There was no communication, no phone calls, and then the shift changed. As fresh inmates arrived, we asked the new guard if he knew whether we would have to spend the night. “I don’t know anything about your situation,” he grunted. That’s when the phrase time stands still, took on a whole new meaning for me.

Certainly, I didn’t expect to be treated differently as a nonviolent protester, but I also didn’t expect that one night in jail would be so mentally taxing. The elderly protester rooming with me clearly wasn’t having an easy time either. She took deep breaths to calm her claustrophobia. I felt tears welling up. How did Nelsen Mandela serve 27 years in prison? I couldn’t fathom it. His fortitude gave me little strength. I felt guilty somehow, dark inside.

The learning came after, in the hours of isolation and powerlessness. And I’m thankful for the experience. It gave me insight into the criminal system and how it destroys the human spirit.

The decision to agitate and risk arrest is not one anyone should take lightly. But sometimes circumstances call reasonable people to take drastic action. This movement has gathered in freezing temperatures 50,000 strong before the White House—during the largest climate change rally in history. We have also delivered a million comments against the KXL pipeline to the State Department. On top of that, over 1,500 of people have been arrested.

To our amazement, it seems to be working. In June, Obama delivered an encouraging speech about climate change. This week, he called for solar panels to be installed on the White House. But we’re going to need much more to reverse the effects of climate change.

Let’s face it: we are not going to be colonizing Mars any time soon. Earth is the only planet we’ve got. So let’s be bold. It’s time to follow in the footsteps of those grandmothers and grandfathers and put ourselves to the test in the battle to save her.

To learn more about what you can do, visit 350.org

Postscript: As one of the rally partners for the February 17th, Forward on Climate Rally, and personally, as one of the 1253 people arrested in the first Tar Sands action, I understand the depth of feeling and passion that Amanda has expressed. On behalf of all of us at ClimateMama I want to thank Amanda for her personal commitment and the ‘drastic actions” that she has felt compelled to take, on behalf of us all. As well, we send out a special thank you to Lindsay, for sharing Amanda’s story with us.


Climate Mama

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2 Responses to Draw The Line on Keystone XL: A Personal Story

  1. Lindsay says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this story. We need to get serious about real action on climate change. I admire the bravery of people like Amanda as they take to the streets to demand real change.

    • Harriet says:

      Thank you for sharing the story with us too and for helping us find the truth on so many important issues and causes! Many people this weekend will also take to the streets as they draw their own “lines in the sand”..

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