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Keystone XL Opponents Hold the Line

A dispatch and slide show from’s “Draw the Line” rallies

President Obama’s decision on whether to approve the cross-border section of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline may not come until 2014, but anti-pipeline opponents are keeping the pressure on the White House as if an announcement could happen any day. On Saturday, organized people in about 200 US cities to hold rallies and marches to express their resistance to the proposal and to call for a shift away from fossil fuels.

photo of people in the rain marching with banners, a cathedral in the background©2013 Julie DermanskyAnti-keystone XL protesters in front of New Orleans' St. Louis Cathedral
on a rainy Saturday.
click this photo to view a slideshow

The largest of the “Draw the Line” demonstrations took place in Seattle, where Bill McKibben, 350’s founder, led a rally opposed to opening up the West Coast to coal exports to Asia; in New York City, where anti-fracking filmmaker Josh Fox spoke to a crowd worried the prospect of sea level risk and future Hurricane Sandy-like disasters; and in Bradshaw, Nebraska, where environmental philanthropist Tom Steyer showed up for an action that involved volunteers building an energy self sufficient barn directly in the pipeline’s path.

In Detroit, some 200 protesters marched in front of the Marathon Oil refinery, whose tar sands refining activities have been irritating residents of the newly renovated pockets of Detroit where artists and small business have set up shop. Petroleum coke pilled up along the Detroit River bank, courtesy of the Koch Brothers, is polluting the air. In Amherst, Massachusetts, people marched through the downtown with a 100-foot-long “pipeline dragon.”

photo of a demonstration in front of a refinery©2013 James FassingerDemonstrators rally in front of the Marathon refinery in southwest Detroit, the most polluted
zip code in Michigan (48217) and one of the most polluted in America
click this photo to view a slideshow

In New Orleans, members of 350NOLA, Tulane’s Green Club and local environmental groups held a Mardi Gras-inspired “second line” parade. They danced through the streets in the French Quarter to the music of a traditional brass band. Random people joined in along the way and tourists paused to read the protesters’ signs. Erik Iverson, an evolutionary biology student, held a “Another scientist against the KXL” sign while Sierra Club member Martial Broussard held a sign that said, “ More Goo for You? Wake up LA.”

Nearby, in Mobile, Alabama, the Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition took to the streets to protest tar sands-related industries being built in the area. One project under construction will result in a pipeline for tar sands running under the Mobile River.

Draw The Line SeattleCourtesy 350Seattle, WA
click this photo to view a slideshow

As opponents and backers continue to debate Keystone XL, the southern route of the Keystone XL, now known as the Gulf Coast Pipeline, is almost complete. It will connect to the northern Keystone One pipeline that has been operating since 2011. Once the two are joined, tar sands from Alberta will be transported to Houston whether the president approves the new northern route of the Keystone XL or not. TransCanada may not get the northern route of the Keystone XL,  but the company will have at least one line under America’s headland from Alberta to the Gulf Coast regardless.


Julie Dermansky
Julie Dermansky is a multimedia reporter and artist based in New Orleans. She is an affiliate scholar at Rutgers University's Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights. Her work deals with climate change and social injustice. Her website at

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