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Thousands Surround Obama's White House: 'Stop Keystone XL!'

- Common Dreams staff

Thousands of people began a planned march around the White House on Sunday afternoon, calling on the Obama Administration to reject the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and keep tar sands crude out of the US.

The demonstration, organized by 350.org, the Sierra Club, and other public interest and environmental groups, followed a “Do the Math” climate event at Washington, DC’s historic Warner Theater earlier in the day.

"Do The Math" is a 21-city nationwide tour by 350.org—headlined by 350 co-founder Bill McKibben and author Naomi Klein—aiming to connect the dots between extreme weather, climate change, and the fossil fuel industry. Designed to galvanize the climate justice movement in the wake of the election, the tour is helping to launch a direct assault not only on politicians, but the big oil and gas companies that finance their campaigns and hold enormous political sway in Washington.

“It’s time to start holding the fossil fuel industry accountable for the wholesale damage they’re doing to our planet,” said McKibben just prior to the march on the White House. “If Sandy showed us anything, it’s that the hour is late and the need is urgent–but the fossil fuel industry has terrified our politicians and the result has been two decades of inaction. We need that to change.”

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The groups organizing the White House rally promised that this is the first in a series of actions promoting climate solutions and rejecting tar sands, Keystone XL, and other extreme oil sources that will culminate in a major Washington, DC rally on Presidents Day, February 18, 2013.

The marchers carried a 500 foot “oil pipeline” and held signs with famous quotes from President Barack Obama about his commitment to tackling the climate crisis, including this from election night: “We want our children to live in an America that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

“The President needs to know that the American people have his back on keeping tar sands crude out of America,” says Sierra Club President Allison Chin. “In 2012 we’ve seen epic droughts and the Sandy superstorm—extreme weather delivering a loud and clear message that solutions to climate disruption can’t wait. Keeping tar sands out of America is a critical step to turn this problem around.”

After hearing from ranchers and farmers living along the proposed path of the Keystone XL pipeline and from landowners fighting to stop the Oklahoma to Texas portion of the pipeline, participants retraced the steps of a fall 2011 march that encircling the White House. Speakers at the Freedom Plaza rally which followed the march included 350.org founder Bill McKibben, Sierra Club President Allison Chin, Indigenous Environmental Network organizer Marty Cobenais and others.

"I never wanted this tar sands pipeline, but TransCanada bullied me out of my land and now they're ripping my farm apart," says Susan Scott, a landowner in the path of the pipeline and lifelong East Texan. "This pipeline puts my family, my loved ones, and my property at risk; but we all need to rise up and defend our homes because this isn't just about Texas. Keystone XL threatens us all."

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