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Hundreds arrested in Keystone XL protest at White House

Police arrested hundreds of people who strapped themselves to the White House fence on March 2 to protest the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The protesters were mostly college students who participated in a peaceful march that began at Georgetown University and ended outside the White House. They chanted "climate justice now" and carried signs with slogans such as "don't tarnish the earth" in an effort to persuade President Barack Obama to reject the pipeline. They say it will worsen global warming.

Protesters were passionate but quite orderly.

Police were waiting for them with buses and vans to speed the process. Protesters cheered as U.S. Park Police warned them that blocking the sidewalk or strapping themselves to the fence would lead to their arrest.

In all, 372 were arrested, police said.

Organizers said the demonstration was the largest youth-led civil disobedience action at the White House in a generation.

“Obama was the first president I voted for, and I want real climate action and a rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Nick Stracco, a senior at Tulane University and one of the lead organizers of XL Dissent. “The people that voted him into office have made it absolutely clear what we want, and that’s to reject Keystone XL.”

Students, after the rally at Georgetown, had marched to Secretary of State John Kerry’s house, where they unfurled a giant mock oil spill on the street and called on him to push Obama to reject the pipeline. Near the White House, the young activists rallied in Lafayette Park.

Before their arrest at the White House, they created another giant human oil spill on the sidewalk.

Park Police spent about four hours arresting the demonstrators.

“An entire movement has thrown itself into in this Keystone fight, from local frontline groups to big national green organizations,” said Bill McKibben of the organizing activist-environmental group “But this weekend shows the power and bravery of some of the most crucial elements: young people, and activists who understand the centrality of  environmental justice.”

In a recent poll, 70 percent of young voters said that support for action on climate change will affect who they vote for and 73 percent said they’d vote against a politician who wasn’t addressing the problem. About 80 percent of young people support the president taking action to address climate change, suggesting that a pipeline rejection based on climate impacts would be widely applauded.

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