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May 20, 2014

Thousands Rally Against Fossil Fuels in National Day of Action

National-Day-of-ActionDenver, Colorado. Photo by Matthew Reed.

By Phil Compton, Sierra Club Beyond Oil and Florida Healthy Air Campaign Organizer

Last Saturday, 5,000 Americans gathered in numbers large and small in 100 communities in 43 states across the nation for a National Day of Action to not only say No to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, but to all dirty fuels.

National-Day-of-ActionKansas City. Photo by Giselle Kim.

Three weeks ago, 5,000 citizens rallied in Washington, D.C., to urge the President Obama to reject KXL. This time people turned out in their own communities. Whether it's offshore drilling, seismic testing, mountaintop removal coal mining, dangerous tar sands pipelines, fracking, exporting liquid natural gas, or shipping crude by rail through our hometowns, we all have reason to be concerned -- for the health of our families and the health of the planet.

National-Day-of-ActionAuburn, Washington. Photo by Brian Gunn.

America is under an unprecedented assault from Big Oil today. So on May 17, Sierrans and activists with dozens of partner organizations took action against the continental and global threat of the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as the many other ways in which fossil fuels now threaten their communities.

National-Day-of-ActionPort of Wilmington, Los Angeles.Photo by Lori Noflin/SoCal Climate Action Coalition.

This National Day of Action against all dirty fuels was organized with help from Surfrider, the Gulf Restoration Network, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity, and 350.org. But it was Sierra Club volunteers and staff who led the way in doing the lion's share of organizing on the national and local level, with Beyond Oil and Our Wild America campaign staff engaged wherever they could.

National-Day-of-ActionMinneapolis-St. Paul. Photo by Alex Vagac/MN 350.

A similar event known as Hands Across the Sand, also co-sponsored by the Sierra Club, started in 2010 when Americans from coast to coast joined Gulf Coast residents in expressing alarm and outrage at the impact of offshore oil on the Gulf of Mexico during the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. Since then, as utilities have begun to move beyond coal, Big Oil has expanded from drilling in the Gulf to an unprecedented new assault on every region of America.

National-Day-of-ActionPensacola Beach, Florida. Photo by Elaine Sargent.

A few highlights from across the fruited plain last Saturday:

Hands were joined across the sands of 20 Florida beaches, and seven in California, with turnouts of 200 or more at St. Pete Beach and Indian Rocks Beach on Tampa Bay, at Miami Beach, and in Kailua, Hawaii.

National-Day-of-ActionHermosa Beach, California. Photo by Nancy Hastings.

Residents of other coastal states, including Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey, were joined by activists from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi in protesting the imminent threat that seismic testing poses to hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins -- a sacrifice oil companies are willing to make in order to find new sites for drilling off the Atlantic coast.

National-Day-of-ActionMiami Beach, Florida. Photo by Rodrigo Gaya for Urban Paradise Guild.

Inland events focused more on the central theme of rejecting the KXL pipeline. The largest event in the nation was in Omaha, where 231 people faced the Missouri River to join hands across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge between Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa. "The bridge is over the river, and we're making the point that we want to protect our water," said local organizer Margaret Mainelli.

National-Day-of-ActionOmaha-Council Bluffs. Photo by J. Grace Young/Bold Nebraska.

North Star (Minnesota) Chapter members stood with MN 350 and Organizing for Action Against Climate Change activists against the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline, joining hands across the Mississippi River on a bridge linking Minneapolis with St. Paul.

National-Day-of-ActionMinneapolis-St. Paul.Photo courtesy of Sierra Club Minnesota.

Illinois Chapter activists connected with Sierra's Northwest Indiana Group at a rally at the Lake Michigan site of the BP tar sands refinery that a few weeks earlier had dumped oil into Lake Michigan, Chicago's water supply.

National-Day-of-ActionWhiting, Indiana. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

Days after an oil pipeline rupture put a Los Angeles neighborhood waist deep in oil, the Sierra Club's Angeles Chapter worked with other members of the SoCal Climate Action Coalition 350 to organize a bi-lingual community workshop in a largely Hispanic community already beset by poor air quality from drilling and fracking, now facing a new threat of tar sand oil being shipped out of the port at Wilmington via a new pipeline through this community under siege by Big Oil.

National-Day-of-ActionPort of Wilmington, Los Angeles. Photo by Jack Eidt.

A similar threat up the coast in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the Valero Benicia Refinery has proposed transporting crude oil by rail tanker cars, was met by a Refinery Corridor Healing Walk at the port town of Martinez, the second in a series of such events. Across the nation in Portland, Maine, the threat of tar sands oil being shipped out through this harbor turned out 100 on a rainy day to speak up for protecting Maine's pristine lakes, rivers and bays.

National-Day-of-ActionSterling, Virginia. Photo by S. Bonney.

In Florida, where anti-drilling activists held their fifth annual Hands Across the Sand events, the focus expanded from offshore drilling to a call for moving America's most oil-dependent state beyond oil through investing in the cleaner transit options it so sorely lacks. Two hundred citizens gathered on one of America's most popular beach destinations, St. Pete Beach, to link dirty fuels to a call for support of this November's biggest transit referendum, Greenlight Pinellas -- the most powerful thing that can be done to reduce the Tampa Bay Area's demand for the oil that continues to threaten the state's beach-tourism-based economy.

National-Day-of-ActionSt. Pete's Beach, Florida. Photo by Phil Compton.

All over America, in nearly every state, Sierrans rallied with their neighbors to call for freedom from the tyranny of fossil fuels that now threatens our lakes, rivers, beaches, water, and air, and to protect the world from rising sea levels and the impact of rising temperatures. The momentum against Big Oil has turned in our favor, even as the industry's reach widens to attack us all. On Saturday, Sierra Club members stood up to Big Oil. Let's keep up the fight.

National-Day-of-ActionIdeal, South Dakota.Photo by Kermit Grimshaw/Bold Nebraska.

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