Following a rally on the National Mall, the gathered crowd— estimated between 35,000 to more than 50,000 people—began a march towards the White House just before 2:00 PM ET.
Though President Obama is away for the weekend at a private golf resort in Florida—playing a round with Tiger Woods no less—the campaigners hope their numbers show the growing ranks of the climate justice movement.
Despite the cold weather, the turnout was a great success, according to organizers.
"This was the biggest climate change rally in US history," wrote 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben in a late day message to the group's members. "By our count, 50,000 people gathered by the Washington Monument and then marched past the White House, demanding that President Obama block the Keystone XL pipeline and move forward toward climate action."
"Today was the day," McKibben said. "Finally, powerfully, decisively -- the movement to stop climate change has come together."
The New York Times reports:
On Sunday, thousands rallied near the Washington Monument to protest the pipeline and call for firmer steps to fight emissions of climate-changing gases. Groups opposing coal production, nuclear power and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas were prominent; separate groups of Baptists and Catholics, as well as an interfaith coalition, and groups from Colorado, Toronto and Minneapolis joined the throng.
One speaker, the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, compared the rally to Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington for civil rights, but, he said, “while they were fighting for equality, we are fighting for existence.” In front of the stage was a mock-up of a pipeline, looking a bit like the dragon in a Chinese new year parade, with the motto, “separate oil and state.”
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, predicted that Mr. Obama would veto the $7 billion project because of the adverse effects development of the Canadian oil sands would have on the global climate.
“It’s rare that a president has such a singular voice on such a major policy decision,” Mr. Brune said. “Whatever damage approving the pipeline would do to the environmental movement pales in comparison to the damage it could do to his own legacy.”
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Thousands of people from around the country converged on Washington, DC Sunday to deliver a clear and succinct message on climate change to President Obama and other political leaders in the nation's capital: take action.
Under the banner, 'Forward on Climate,' organizations and individuals from nearly all fifty states planned to be in attendance, demanding a complete rejection of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and calling for a deep commitment to a cleaner and more sustainable energy future for the United States.
"Tens of thousands of Americans will show President Obama the broad public support for climate solutions," said Sierra Club, one of the key organizers of the rally, in a statement.
In addition, the coalition of more than 200 hundred environmental, social justice and progressive groups said they would challenge Obama to "to keep his commitment of making climate action a top priority during his second term."
The president has several actions that he alone can take, they say, including rejecting the Keystone project—which would unleash a 'carbon bomb' and spell, according to scientists, "game over for the climate"—and adopting a strong carbon rule to limit pollution from fossil fuel-burning energy plants.
In addition to the large rally planned for the National Mall in Washington, regional solidarity actions were scheduled to take place in cities across the U.S. A listing of those rallies can be found here.
"The Keystone XL pipeline has put more people in the streets than any environmental issue in a generation," said 350.org founder Bill McKibben.
"It's time," said McKibben, "for the president to live up to his rhetoric and say no to this climate disaster."