A crowd of protesters was posted again outside federal buildings at the corner of Broadway and Front Street on Monday night, February 3, promising stiff opposition to the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would transport oil-laden tar sands from Canada nearly 1200 miles across the Midwest to Texas refineries.
"The State Department released an environmental statement saying that the Keystone project wouldn't really create much of a problem," explains Alby Quinlan, an activist with SanDiego350.org. "We're here to tell President Obama to stand up to his commitment to make a difference on the issue of climate change. And we feel Keystone is a big part of that."
Crowds gathered at both southern corners of the intersection and snaked along Broadway for nearly a block in both directions, garnering frequent honks and waves of support from passing motorists.
"We are a part of a larger movement," said reverend Beth Johnson of Vista's Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Organizers hoping for a crowd of 200 to attend their "candlelight vigil" (one of 270 planned by various groups nationwide) saw their ranks expand to well beyond that number by a few minutes after the rally's advertised 6 p.m. start, while supporters continued to trickle in during several speakers' remarks.
"The State Department's report is tainted with oil, it is drenched with the money of special interests, and it is written with poison," charged Johnson. "We instead need to seek out ways of meeting our needs in a sustainable way and imagine new possibilities for our species and the earth."
While Obama will have 90 days to approve or deny permits to build Keystone, his chief of staff Denis McDonough is indicating that the decision has not yet been made; the president is said to be seeking further input from the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, and other federal experts.
Activists say they'll keep the pressure on, with SanDiego350 cofounder Masada Disenhouse promising to rally activists to commit acts of civil disobedience. She said thousands of other volunteers nationwide are undergoing nonviolent-protest training in the event that the pipeline gains federal approval.
"Now is the time to really put ourselves on the line, so we can help our fellow Americans really grasp the [climate change] situation and our country's role in fixing it," said Disenhouse. Several dozen cheers shot up across the crowd when she asked for a show of volunteers prepared to engage in a more hands-on approach to protest.
"We will be nonviolent, we will be peaceful, and we will be dignified, but we will take this fight to the next level."