Chloe Gleichman’s arrest is something she is proud of.
Gleichman, a Saline sophomore, was arrested on Aug. 29 in Washington, D.C. in front of the White House along with a group of other protesters for refusing to disperse.
She was part of a group protesting a pipeline that would run from Canadian province Alberta to Texas, transporting oil collected from tar sands, a source of petroleum which has seen a rapid growth in interest.
The group stood outside with signs while singing songs during the somber protest, she said.
“It was a two-week project organized by a famous environmentalist named Bill McKibben to try to pressure Obama not to sign the bill,” Gleichman said.
The name of the protested pipeline is Keystone XL, and the president should make a decision about it by the end of the year, Gleichman said.
“They gave us three warnings before they arrested us,” she said. “The women were arrested first. We were handcuffed, patted down aggressively and thrown in the back of a police van.”
Gleichman was fined and released. The first wave of protesters arrested spent three nights in jail, she said.
“It was a very moving experience being around these people of all ages,” Gleichman said. “There was an 80-year-old woman in the car next to me who could barely get into the police van.”
Gleichman said the tar sands are about three times more pollutive than regular oils, and the pipeline would run through a huge number of aquifers that supply water to millions of Americans.
“The company that built Keystone 1, similar to the one they’re proposing now, said the Keystone 1 would break down once every seven years, which is unacceptable already,” Gleichman said. “It has actually broken 12 times in the past year.”
She said she would go back and do it all again, and the incident in August would not be her last arrest for civil disobedience.
“Environmental problems are going to be an issue whether we like it or not,” Gleichman said. “To stand up for the Earth is crucial for our health and survival. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather fight for.”
Director of the Great Lakes Institute for Sustainable Systems Tom Rohrer said a number of groups were involved in the protest, including the Sierra Club and Greenpeace.
“I’m proud of Ms. Gleichman for having these strong beliefs and for taking a stand on an issue that’s very important to her,” Rohrer said.
But shutting down the pipeline wouldn’t do any good, Rohrer said.
“I think the protest is off the mark,” Rohrer said. “If that pipeline is canceled, it will be built somewhere else instead. The group should be protesting in Canada and putting pressure on the Canadian government.”
Rohrer said the real problem is why extracting the tar sands is profitable in the first place.
“The more oil prices go up, the more profitable it is to rip up the Canadian prairies for the thick, corrosive tar sands,” Rohrer said. “People need to change their lifestyles to make the demand less for this oil. Carpool. Ride your bike places, instead. Advocate for better public transportation.”
Rohrer said people who want to help the planet can make a positive change in their lives by changing their use of unsustainable fossil fuels.
“I’m not trying to take away jobs or ruin our economy,” Gleichman said. “I’m fighting for everybody, even the people who are the oil company lobbyists. They need to breathe clean air just like the rest of us.”