Monica Christoffels drove across the country in a borrowed Prius. At the end of her journey she was arrested, and she regrets nothing.
Christoffels was arrested protesting the Keystone X.L. pipeline proposal outside the White House in late August.
The Keystone X.L. pipeline would transport oil from the Tar Sands in western Canada to oil refineries in Texas. It would stretch for 1,700 miles, through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. While the project would create jobs and lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil, the environmental risks are significant. Many protestors fear not just environmental damage from the pipeline, but also the repercussions of taking a $13 billion step away from renewable energy.
Christoffels heard about the Washington D.C. rally online through Tar Sands Action, the main protest group. To get there, she decided to join a caravan of cars travelling from Sacramento, California. She borrowed a car from another activist in Portland and headed out.
Christoffels, a 24-year-old dual enrollment student at the University of Oregon and Lane College, first began protesting in 2009, when she marched at the UO in protest of the Iranian presidential elections. Since, she has been involved with Power Shift West ’09, the Climate Justice League and a variety of other environmentally-aware organizations.
The Tar Sand Action movement, however, is a whole different level. A total of 1,252 people were arrested at the Washington D.C. rally, making it the largest display of civil disobedience since the 1970s.
On her cross-country trip, Christoffels and the rest of her caravan stopped and stayed with supporters in Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and West Virginia, where the caravan was stalled because of hurricane Irene. In every location, the protestors would hold up signs and raise awareness about its cause.
They also stopped in Wyoming, where the caravan received much negativity from the citizens.
“There was this one guy who said, ‘Go back home. Go eat your granola, go smoke your dope. We don’t want you here,’” said Christoffels. But the opposition did little to slow down the caravan.
On Monday, August 29, 2011, Christoffels and her fellow activists marched outside the White House. After three warnings from police to leave the area, the arrests began.
“That was probably the most nerve-wracking part of the experience,” said Christoffels at a presentation she held last Saturday. “You’re actively and consciously breaking the law. Every instinct tells you that you need to leave. It’s really hard for a lot of folks to disobey the police.”
But sometimes it’s necessary to get a point across. One-by-one, the Tar Sands activists were confined with zip-ties, shuffled into police vehicles and taken to Anacostia prison. After processing and paying a fine, they were advised not to get arrested again and let go. Christoffels stayed in D.C. to protest in front of the White House for another week.
Christoffels remains an active advocate for renewable energy and fights to get the Keystone X.L. pipeline proposal rejected.
Another anti-pipeline rally outside the White House is planned for November 6.