This is what democracy looks like!!!
Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to do the things you love. That’s how I justified getting on a bus and driving all night to Washington, DC. This weekend some of my friends and I made the trek to DC because we wanted to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. And I can say confidently that it was most definitely worth it.
My friends and I were in DC to attend the Tar Sands Action, a rally aimed at convincing president Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. A little background info on the pipeline: it is a proposed crude oil pipeline that would carry oil from the Tar Sands of Alberta to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. It would have huge environmental, climate, and human impacts as well as being symbolic of our dependence on oil. And Obama did promise to “end the tyranny of oil.” He has promised to make a decision by the end of this year.
So, we gathered, 12,000 of us, in Lafayette Park in front of the White House. I forgot how tired I was from a night on the bus when I saw how many people there were. There was a certain energy in the crowd that you only get from thousands of people with the same purpose. I knew, looking around, that everyone who was gathered in the park was there for the same reason I was. I just felt so grateful towards everyone who was there. It gave me a sense of relief and belonging, knowing that yes, there are other people in the world who are as passionate about this as I am; I am not alone.
We heard a bunch of speakers, including a Nobel prize laureate and a chief of the Sioux nation, speak about why it is crucial that president Obama rejects the proposal. Some of the speakers, like Mark Ruffalo below, used the human microphone which. If you have been following the Occupy Wall Street movement, you know that the human microphone is an ingenious way for one voice to reach large numbers of people.
Just hearing the roaring crowd was enough to empower me, but we even went a step further. The goal of this particular action was to surround the White House with people, to send a powerful message to the president. In the weeks leading up to the protest, the organizers weren’t sure if they would have enough people to encircle the 1.5 mile block that the White House is on. However, they needn’t have worried. There were enough people to circle the White House three times!
As we marched through the streets, we chanted things like “Hey! Obama! We don’t want no climate drama!” and “Yes we can! Stop the pipeline!” and “Hey, it’s hot in here! Too much carbon in the atmosphere!” and of course, “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” I know, they sound cheesy, but when you’re swept up by a crowd of people who are all shouting the same thing, it’s a pretty powerful feeling.
If I took one thing away from this experience, it is how gratifying it feels to be part of something larger than yourself. It’s like being at the center of the universe, but it’s not about you. It felt like we were in the beating heart of the moment, and we were doing everything we could to support what we believed in. I hope that everyone gets a chance to experience this at least once, because it’s truly awesome.