Steve Clemens: ‘Why I Got Arrested Over a Pipeline’

Steve Clemens at Tar Sands protest.
As part of the follow-up to the arrest of more than 60 religious leaders on Monday at the White House, we asked participants to take time to craft their “public story,” as civil rights organizer Marshall Ganz calls it. We encouraged them to ask someone in the next few days to do a 15-minute interview with them on the civil disobedience action. The interviewer should ask “Who, What, When, How, Where?” The participant should start answers with her or his senses: Taste, Smell, Hearing, Sight, Touch.

Using the interviewers notes on the answers, craft a good public story that has a plot – challenges they faced, choices they made, and outcomes they experienced – texture, dialogue, and scene. We told folks to stay away from the “issue” and stick with what they personally were wrestling with in their hearts. Write this up in a 2-3 paragraphs. Practice telling the crafted story aloud. Then go tell it to others! This story can then be submitted to the local paper, denominational newsletters, used to preach, tell others in the grocery store, and sent back to Tar Sands Action.

My friend Steve Clemens has posted a wonderful tale of his experiences over at Mennonista. Below is an excerpt:

When I first signed up to come to Washington and return to the White House, I thought to myself: wasn’t it just a year and a half ago that I told Christine that I’m getting too old to spend another night in jail? My experience protesting President Obama’s continuation of the Afghan and Iraq Wars had left me physically very sore (but spiritually content) after 28 hours in the four different DC jails we occupied after our “die in” at the White House the day before the 2010 State of the Union address.

This time it was an email from my friend, Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia that got the juices flowing again. He sent me a letter signed by Bill McKibben, Jim Hansen, Naomi Klein, and Wendell Berry (among others) asking us to come to DC at the end of August to nonviolently pressure President Obama to declare that allowing the Trans-Canada project to build the Keystone XL pipeline linking the Alberta Tar Sands oil fields to Houston, TX refineries and Gulf Coast shipping would not be in “the national interest”. Since the proposed 1,700 mile pipeline would cross the international border, Obama can unilaterally declare it is or isn’t in our national interest without Congressional interference. Come to Washington, the letter said, and risk arrest in a two-week civil disobedience campaign. The letter especially encouraged we older folk who have made a very large carbon footprint over our lives to share some of the burden of risking arrest to change our policies. …

Read Steve’s whole account.