Since Aug. 20, more than 400 people have been arrested during protests at the White House against the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Texas. To date, many of the protesters have been ordinary citizens or stars of the environmental movement, but today, movie star Daryl Hannah wrote her contact number on her arm, drew her own poster, and took her place outside the White House gates to get arrested with 76 other people.
“If President Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline…he will be sentencing us to a future as slaves to fossil fuel dependency,” Hannah told an approving crowd, reminding them renewable energy “already exists and it’s truly liberating…We stand here today to just say no to slavery, to just say no to tar sands, to just say no to Keystone.” The expansion of the pipeline’s attracted criticism both because it would cross a number of fragile environmental sites, and because opponents believe it’s a distraction from finding renewable energy solutions.
Hannah’s no stranger to getting arrested in environmental protests, and I asked her what she hoped this arrest would accomplish.
“Obviously it’s good when pop culture figures come out because it gets a segment of the media that doesn’t pay attention to social or humanitarian issues,” she said. That certainly seemed to be the case today. Photographers swarmed Hannah as she sat on the front line of the protesters, and packed in close to the boundaries the police set up to clear space around the people they planned to arrest. Hannah says she hasn’t spent that much time building up a social media presence, joking, “I’m just not that computer literate,” and noting that while she tweets, “It’s all about action alerts,” rather than offering a window into her social life.
And Hannah emphasized that the movement against Keystone XL has been driven mostly by ordinary people rather than by celebrities, and said she thought that eventually, it would be impossible for the media to treat the White House protests as an aberration. “It’s been building the last couple weeks,” she told me. “At a certain point, it’s going to be impossible to ignore.”