Sixteen Boston College students and alumni attended a divestment convergence hosted in Washington, D.C. over spring break, joining thousands of other college students representing over 100 university divestment campaigns. The event, named XL Dissent, took place over two days and culminated in a youth-organized protest of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Friday February 28
The group is off to a fantastic start; everyone has packed way too much stuff for the weekend (except for the girls, surprisingly). We haven’t even left Boston yet and we’re already having a blast.
Saturday March 1
The Boston area alone was able to completely fill 2 busses of students. This bus is packed. Candy. Pillows. Drool. I think my legs fell off.
At the Thurgood Marshall Center in Washington DC leaders of college divestment organizations got together for a strategy session. Students broke up into smaller breakout groups to listen to speakers, brainstorm organizing strategies, and network with other youth leaders. The turnout was twice as large as expected, signifying how fast the national divestment movement is growing in over 300 universities, cities and religions institutions.
There is so much power in the room, so much passion for one cause. It is inspiring and energizing. I’m thinking I should try dreadlocks… they seem to be the new style.
500 people attempt to cram into the Thurgood Marshall Center gym. The event will be huge! DC Action Lab arrives and explains the exact plan for the protest tomorrow. Everyone in the room is getting really pumped up and we are confident that our voices will be heard.
Side note: The meat line will always be MUCH shorter than the vegan line at an environmental convergence.
U Street is awesome, so much to do and see. BCFF is the coolest club on campus with the coolest people and you should join!
Sunday March 2
It is way too early for folk songs but then again it’s too early to be awake in general. About 300 people managed to cram themselves onto St. Stephen’s church floor and everyone wakes up with a ton of energy, ready to get our protest on!
The protest begins at Georgetown’s red square. 1,200 students are holding signs, cheering and signing. Hazmat suits and ties are the preferred outfit of the day! This is our future and we will fight for it. We have a voice, it is loud and it is powerful! We march the three miles from Georgetown to the white house. People line the streets to watch and cheer us on!
“Power, power, power, power. Power to the people”
“1700 miles of pipe, 1700 miles we’ll fight”
It’s a perfect day and I am surrounded by perfect people. 1100 perfect people who are working together to make an incredible difference.
“1 we are the people. 2 we are united. 3 we will not let you build this pipeline”
When we arrive at the White House we listen to a series of incredible speakers from leading universities and frontline communities whose tribes and livelihoods will be directly impacted by the KXL pipeline. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez a thirteen-year-old youth representative from Earth Guardians reminded the crowds that this is our future that we are being forced to fight for. Jasmin Thomas from a tribe in Canada spoke of the imminent destruction of sacred Native American land by tar sands extraction.
It was clear that we needed to remind Obama why we, the youth, voted him into power. We believed that he would fight for our futures, rather than give up on us and into big oil companies. We needed to remind him of the promises he had made to us in the past.
Over a thousand amazing students make their way to the white house fence. 398 of them enter the arrest-able zone and tie themselves to the white house fence or die in the symbolic oil spill. 6 of your fellow BC students were among those to be arrested for civil disobedience. They were incredibly brave and stoic and have earned tremendous respect.
When the cops arise to fence off the area they are extremely calm and friendly, joking with the protestors and showing their support of the peaceful student demonstration. When they finally announce that they are going to begin the arrests, the whole crowd cheers.
Somewhere, someone in the crowd screams “I love you” and the chant continues as the first protesters are arrested and loaded onto transport vehicles. Not even the cops and tourists can help but be moved by the passionate crowd. The arrests continue until well past 5 pm and the crowds remain to support their friends, peers and heroes.
Monday March 2
We spill out of the busses onto the quiet Boston sidewalks. We are delirious but freshly energized. Still on the high that comes with acting on something you believe in and realizing that your voice does have power, we make our way back to campus. Quiet and reflective it is clear that this weekend in DC was the experience of a lifetime.
We are ready to come back to Boston College with a fresh outlook and new ideas. We have seen what our generation can do when we put our minds to it and we have nothing but the highest of hopes for the BC community.
While climate change does pose a daunting challenge for our futures, it also offers an incredible opportunity for leadership and innovation.
WE ARE YOUNG, WE ARE POWERFUL AND WE WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE.