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Three Scenes From My Week Of Climate Activism

Sometimes you’re just living your life and things happen. You don’t think too much about them at the time.  But then a similar thing happens again, and again, and you begin to wonder if there’s a pattern to them.

Activists in hazmat suits block a roadway.

A recent blockade organized by the Utah Tar Sands Resistance.

That’s what I experienced last week as a climate activist.

Scene Number One:  Climate activists have come from Denver to Grand Island, Nebraska for the State Department’s one Keystone XL hearing. We get into town in time to go to Jim Tarnick’s farm for a Bold Nebraska BBQ with the farmers and ranchers, and the prayer circle led by Faith Spotted Eagle.

Next morning, we’re in our motel lobby eating the ‘continental breakfast.’ As soon as we get downstairs, three police show up in the lobby and hang out at the front desk. They don’t seem to be on much of a mission, just chatting up the desk clerk. When we leave to go the hearing, they leave too.

Scene Number Two: We stand in a Nebraska early morning spring blizzard for over two hours before the State Department decides to break their protocol and let us stand indoors in line rather than outside in the 40 mph wind and snow. That’s nice of them. After a sixteen hour day full of waiting in line, standing around, hearing amazing testimony from so many people in their three minute time slots, we finally crash after 1 AM. We’ve been inspired and activated by all the amazing Nebraskans, as well as folks from Mayflower, Arkansas, Kalamazoo, Michigan, the Gulf Coast, and other fossil fuel crime scenes who traveled to Grand Island to get their stories on the record. (You really should watch some of the video at the link above).

Next morning, Friday, we go out to our car to drive back to the Front Range. There is a police car parked in front of our vehicle, and a policewoman is leaning up against her car. As I unlock our car to put our bags in, she approaches us and asks for identification. “Is there a problem, Officer? Are you looking for someone?” She gives no response, looks at my license, says thank you, and leaves.

Scene Number Three: It’s now the following Thursday. Utah Tar Sands Resistance is having a teach-in, which we with 350Denver have been advertising. I get to the space a few minutes late. There are Occupy people there, and others. At least one other meeting is going on in another part of the building, as well, with kids and adults. Soon after I arrive, three people leave. The teach-in starts. About an hour in, a cry goes up from the the front of building: we’re surrounded by riot police and they’re threatening to come in. One of the building superintendents decides to let the police in rather than risk a confrontation. Five officers brandishing what look like automatic weapons come into the space and look around. There is talk that someone had made a phone call to the police about a supposed hostage situation at the teach-in. The police leave the building without more incident. But when the teach-in breaks up later, there are still two police cars, lights off, cars turned off, waiting in the dark street to monitor people and vehicles leaving.

Three scenes, one week. Coincidence or not?

Photo by Utah Tar Sands Resistance.

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