Swat Mountain Justice Protests Keystone Pipeline

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Members of Swarthmore Mountain Justice (SMJ) organized a last-minute protest on the steps of Parrish yesterday afternoon. The occasion was National Tar Sands Blockade Solidarity Day, in protest of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

About 15 protesters, including at least one Haverford student, packed the steps of Parrish. Carrying cardboard signs in that called out slogans like “All Pipelines Leak” and “Divest Now”, members passionately demonstrated their solidarity with the Blockade.

“We did it in front of Parrish to pointedly message the administration,” said member Sarah Blazevic ‘15.

Once it is built, the Keystone XL Pipeline will transport oil from Canadian tar sands to Texas refineries. The Blockade is an ongoing non-violent action movement that hopes to block construction of the pipeline entirely.

The protesters also emphasized what they believe is an imperative for the College to divest from the fossil fuel industry. SMJ’s divestment campaign has been increasingly active this semester despite a tepid response from the administration.

“The pipeline means that we will experience the most catastrophic effects of climate change,” said SMJ member Will Lawrence ‘13. Lawrence said that the pipeline’s builders are “basically bulldozing an entire forest, and boiling the fossil fuels. They’re finding more and more extreme ways of getting fossil fuels, [all of which] are seriously deadly.”

To extract the tar sands, which are located under the forests of Northern Alberta, forests are bulldozed, and the exposed soil is put through a refining process that separates oil from the sand, according to Lawrence. In the process, forests are completely demolished and water supplies contaminated. This extreme way of obtaining fossil fuels will dramatically exacerbate climate change, he said.

In an email to The Daily Gazette, Lawrence wrote that “the pipeline is almost certain to leak (as all pipelines do) and damage important water sources, including the Oglalla Aquifer that provides water to much of our grain belt.”

“The Tar Sands Blockaders have been bravely putting their bodies on the line to stop this construction, by locking themselves to bulldozers, building tree villages in their path, as well as organizing communities along the way to build education and support,” he wrote.

In East Texas, “there are about 50 groups doing blockades, tree-sits, in some way demonstrating their solidarity,” said Blazevic.“Everything we are doing is in conjunction with other activists. It’s not just us, or our small little group.”

“Our action is to express our support with the blockade,” said Lawrence in his email. The protesters hoped to “‘connect the dots’ between Swarthmore’s investments in dirty energy and potentially disastrous projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline.”

The protest “was pretty last minute since it’s a pretty busy time with lots of schoolwork, but we still wanted to show our solidarity,” she said.

Not all attendees were affiliated with SMJ. One of these students, Ben Wolcott ‘14, said “I am a body, so I came to support.”

“This really was the opportunity to lend my body and voice to something that I think deserves national action and attention,” said Haverford student Samantha Shain ‘14.


Featured image courtesy of Swarthmore Mountain Justice.


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