A crowd that organizers said numbered approximately 35,000 braved the cold on Sunday and marched to urge President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and to show leadership on other climate issues they called urgent.
The group rallied on a slice of the Mall just north of the Washington Monument before heading down Constitution Avenue, up 17th Street and past the White House chanting slogans such as “We are unstoppable, another world is possible” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Keystone pipeline’s got to go.”
The president wasn’t home, however. He was in Florida playing golf with Tiger Woods and Jim Crane, a Houston businessman who owns the Houston Astros as well as the residential compound where Obama is spending the holiday weekend.
But the demonstrators tried to send him a message nonetheless, carrying signs opposing not only the proposed pipeline from Canada to Texas, but also opposing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and coal plants. “Windmills, not oil spills,” one placard said. Another said, “Fossil fuels? Fossil fools.” And another: “Read my lips: no new carbons.”
Leaders of the rally said they wanted to press Obama to follow up on the strong rhetoric in his inaugural address about the need to slow climate change. The official posters at the rally borrowed Obama’s campaign slogan “forward.” They read: “Mr. President, Forward — on Climate.”
“Mr. President, we have heard what you’ve said on climate; we have loved a lot of what you’ve said on climate,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Our question is: What will you do?”
For many of the rally leaders, the first test will be whether the president and Secretary of State John F. Kerry approve a construction permit for the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude from the oil or tar sands of Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas.
The energy-intensive methods needed to extract that crude emit more greenhouse gases than oil production methods from conventional reservoirs.
“Mr. President, you hold the pen and the executive power of hope in your hands,” Brune said. “Take out that pen, Mr. President, and write down the words ‘I reject the Keystone XL pipeline.’ ”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told members of the crowd that they could help encourage Obama. “We are going to have the president’s back and he is going to have our back,” Whitehouse said, adding that “We are going to look at our grandchildren and say ‘Yes, we did.’ ”…
Should there be a need for tens of thousands to march on Washington to ask a king by any name to grant wishes for a safe environment? We have the technology to vote on individual issues nation-wide. Insist on that. March for that.