Keystone Pipeline protests rage on

Nicole Zelniker/Guilfordian

On March 2, thousands of students gathered on the streets of Washington, D.C. in what is said to have been the largest student protest since the Vietnam War.

They marched in dissent of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Three phases have already been completed,” said junior and Guilford College Democrats President Josh Weil. “We’re protesting the fourth phase: the pipeline actually being built.”

Students voiced concerns about the fact that more fossil fuels are generated by the oil in the Keystone Pipeline System than by oil produced in the U.S.

“The company that wants to build the Keystone has a very poor environmental reputation,” said sophomore and Sustainability Committee head Lily Collins. “We want to stop the building of fossil fuel infrastructure due to the carbon that’s released from fossil fuels.”

Many believe that the construction will affect everyone from bird and reptile species to human beings.

“The potential for destroying wetland areas and major aquifers is really high,” said Allison Bressler, intern at Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil Campaign, in a phone interview with The Guilfordian.

“Tar sands emit about three times the gases as conventional oil,” said protest organizer Nicholas Stracco to The Guilfordian. “It erodes oil pipelines, (and) we have no proven way to clean it up.”

During the protest, 372 people were arrested after voluntarily zip-tying their arms to the fence in front of the White House.

“At first it was exciting, then the weather turned cold,” said Warren Wilson College first‑year Christopher Feidler-Cree in an email interview with The Guilfordian. “Our spirits were not diminished and rounds of chanting broke out often. There was an amazing sense of community.”

Cheering from the crowd remained consistent from 10 a.m. to the last arrest at 7 p.m.

“When the policeman placed handcuffs on one of us, the rhythmic chant of, ‘We love you! We love you! We love you!’ roared from the crowd,” said Warren Wilson sophomore and protest organizer Jamie DeMarco in an email interview with The Guilfordian. “It was hard to feel anything but inspired.”

Students were inspired by the fact that this was a youth-led protest.

“This is our future we are talking about, and I think it is important to be informed about issues like these that can directly affect us,” said first‑year Davia Young.

Although no Guilford students were arrested during the protests, they showed support of the protesters who were.

“It’s hard to watch these people who care so much about this cause that they are willing to be arrested,” said Weil. “They’re willing to sacrifice their futures.”

First‑year Devon Murphy-Anderson believes that the protest symbolized her generation’s high-mindedness.

“The protest (won’t) stop Obama from signing the bill enabling construction of the fourth installment of the Keystone pipeline,” said Murphy-Anderson. “This protest was about showing America that our generation is listening and that we care about our earth and our future.”

DeMarco is more hopeful of the results.

“We sent the message, ‘No Keystone XL pipeline,’ as loudly as we could,” said DeMarco. “President Obama has heard us, and now the question is: will he listen?”

Students must remember, however, that the power to construct the pipeline does not rest solely with Obama.

“It’s not like the president can just snap his fingers and shut it down,” said Weil. “There are a lot of working parts. Although Obama is a major factor, there are many people at play that also need to be moved into making the right decision.”