On Saturday afternoon, a group of Yale students is planning to travel to Washington, D.C. to protest the Keystone XL pipeline alongside college students from across the country.
The students are willingly risking arrest to participate in the rally against the crude oil transport system which runs from Canada to Texas. The upcoming protest is expected to bring approximately 600 students to the capitol, according to Alexandra Barlowe ’17, one of the lead organizers of the trip. The 2011 protest drew over 10,000 protestors and resulted in over 1,000 arrests.
“This is not just about Keystone, this is about our generation saying that we’re moving in the direction against policies that are moving us backward,” said Elias Estabrook ’16, the other leader of the trip.
The Keystone XL pipeline is a project that has been proposed by the company TransCanada, and would transport crude oil from Canada’s oil sands through an underground pipeline to refineries in Texas. Many environmentalists have rallied against the pipeline, arguing that the refining and transport of the oil is such a carbon intensive process that if the oil were to be released, it would harm many other carbon reduction efforts, said Patrick Reed ’16, former president of YSEC, the Yale Student Environmental Coalition. President Obama has still not yet decided whether or not to give plans for the pipeline the green light, but has announced he will make a decision in the coming months.
The group — currently projected to be around seven students — will arrive in D.C. on Saturday to participate in a nonviolent protest training given by XL Dissent, a group of college students from schools across the nation who have banded together to organize a protest against the pipeline.
On Sunday morning, the group of protestors will meet at Georgetown to begin marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, where they will engage in nonviolent protest. Barlowe said that she expects the group to end the day in handcuffs.
“I think there’s more than a likelihood of arrest. It’s almost guaranteed,” Barlowe said.
According to Barlowe and Estabrook, every student going on the trip has been informed of the probability of arrest, and has agreed to pay any fines that may be incurred as a result. The XL Dissent website has also been raising money to donate to a fund for students who may not be able to pay the fine.
Estabrook said he expects at least one lawyer to be present at the training, which is mandatory for any student who is participating in the protest. Those coming from Yale will have their transportation costs furnished by YSEC. The board of YSEC declined to comment for this article.
Mitchell Barrows ’16, a student going on the trip, said he is both excited and nervous to go on the trip, but in the end, he feels as though participating in the rally is “fulfilling my civic duty to involve myself in politics and voice my opinion to those whose job it is to listen.”
This protest is just one of a number of environmental issues that students having rallied behind, Estabrook said. He mentioned the divestment movement as another example of a student environmental activism..
Reed said Yale students in particular have an ability to leverage social capital that comes from attending such an institution to affect political change in the world.
“I think that’s why this action is so important — not because it’s about the pipeline, and not because it’s about this specific thing, but because it’s about but because it’s sending a message about what people are and aren’t going to tolerate,” Barlowe said.
The XL Dissent website features the signatures of over 60 college students across the country who helped organize the protest.