Warren Wilson student Eva Westheimer arrested in Washington DC, shares story of civil disobediance
Here's an excerpt from Warren Wilson College student Eva Westheimer's first person account of her experience protesting tar sand mining in Washington DC, originally published in the college paper (The Warren Wilson Echo):
Until September 3rd I had never been arrested. I’ll admit, there have been several times over the past year that I’ve considered risking arrest for civil disobedience. When I heard about the Tar Sands Action I was just coming down from my March on Blair Mountain high, and I was ecstatic to hear I may be seeing my activist friends again. Lately I’ve put much of my energy into anti-mountaintop-removal work, so I was a little hesitant to put my time and energy into something that I didn’t know that much about.
As college students we have many commitments and hobbies that often dictate our day-to-day life. Recently, three students including myself were arrested during the Tar Sands Action in Washington D.C. We each took time out of our daily lives to travel to D.C. and spend a minimal amount of time in discomfort. Each of us had different tipping points, but we knew that it was our time to do something. Some went against Obama because the tar sands are detrimental to the wolves in Canada. Others just came as support or to see old friends. Here is my reflection and a little background on the day of action, the days preceding and the days following it.
After doing some research, the subject of tar sands has become much bigger for me. For the nation this is bigger than just a reunion of activists. The action, culminating with 1254 arrests, was not a “reunion of activists,” but rather a very diverse representation of our country.
What are the tar sands and why the need for the Tar Sands Action? Tar sands, according to the Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic EIS, are a “combination of clay, sand, water, and bitumen, a heavy black viscous oil. The bitumen in tar sands cannot be pumped from the ground in its natural state; instead tar sand deposits are mined, usually using strip mining or open pit techniques, or the oil is extracted by underground heating with additional upgrading.”
Basically, these extraction technologies are very harmful to the environment.
The Tar Sands Action (TSA), organized and sponsored by Bill McKibbin who visited Wilson last fall, started as an organized civil disobedience movement which took place over fifteen days. Its purpose was to ask President Obama to veto the Keystone XL permit (KYXL). The KYXL would be a 1,700 mile extension to a pipeline crossing the entire U.S. from Alberta Canada, where the tar sands reserve is located, to the Gulf of Mexico where the oil refineries lie. This pipeline would pass over the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies fresh water to millions of people. It would be a catastrophe if there were to be an oil spill over this aquifer.