Sierra Club Canada president Howie Chong boasted on Twitter Sunday that “There are over 130 buses bringing people into Washington DC” for Sunday’s “Forward on Climate” march outside the White House. But despite Chong’s excitement about the protesters and their air-polluting buses converging on D.C., the protest drew far less of a crowd than organizers had hoped for.
The “Forward on Climate” march, co-organized by the Sierra Club, was designed to urge President Obama to stick to his environmentalist agenda and reject the oil industry’s request to complete the Keystone XL pipeline that would allow the U.S. to import vast amounts of oil from Canada. Obama is expected to make his decision on the Keystone pipeline any day now.
Organizers said that 35,000 protesters showed up for the Sunday event, but many left early and only a “straggling column” of demonstrators reached the White House after two cold, wind-bitten hours. Numerous climate activists in the crowd reportedly expressed disappointment with the turnout.
“No matter how discouraging the turnout, it’s important to be here and be heard,” said one 66-year old Portland resident who drove cross-country for the underwhelming event.
“I wouldn’t read too much into the numbers” said the Woodrow Wilson International Center’s Canada Institute director David Biette, who stressed that the protesters still made their point.
“I don’t think it will overly influence the administration’s decision,” Washington consultant Paul Frazer told the Globe and Mail, referring to the disappointing protest.
Sierra Club leaders and activists Robert Kennedy Jr. and Daryl Hannah were arrested last Wednesday outside the White House in an anti-Keystone protest that marked the first time the Sierra Club had ever condoned civil disobedience. Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune made it known to the press prior to the protest that he was prepared to “risk arrest.”