Pipeline Protesters Encircle the White House

Chanting “Yes we can … stop the pipeline,” thousands of people wearing bright orange vests encircled the White House to protest the proposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Canada, across the United States, to the Gulf of Mexico. The Natural Resources Defense Council organized the protest.

“I’m opposing the XL pipeline … because the tar sands oil extraction is a very dirty process,” said John Mayux, from Luray, Va. ”And the few thousand jobs that it would create, I don’t think would balance out the damage from the possible breaks in the pipeline.”

Protesters are upset by what they consider a change in position for President Obama. Signs given to protesters quoted from one of his 2008 campaign speeches: “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

Last week, Obama said in an interview with Nebraska’s KETV that despite potential damage to the environment, he would consider allowing construction of the pipeline, in part, to create jobs.

Matthew Patterson, who brought his wife and three children from Vermont, worked on the Obama campaign in 2008, but said his support is waning and hinges on this decision.

“Sometimes I feel that we’re in his back pocket, and from his perspective, that we’ll vote for him anyway,” Patterson said. ”But I think he might be surprised.  He’s got some promises to fulfill to those of us who worked very hard on the campaign in ’08.  So that’s why we’re here.  Hopefully he’ll make the right decision for our future.”

The crowd represented a full spectrum of age groups — children brought by their parents, college students, adults, and senior citizens. A group of students traveled from Vanderbilt University, saying they represented residents of their home states who could not attend.

“I’m from New Orleans, so we have environmental issues because of the Gulf,” Nicole Rodriguez-Fierro, 19, said. “I think it’s a big issue we need to get people’s attention on.”

“This is a huge watershed event,” Mike Diamond, 19, said. “I think Obama wants us to succeed, and I think Obama has it within him to do the right thing.  He knows what the right thing is.  And he should know if he does the right thing, we’re going to support him.  And if he doesn’t, we might look for other options.”