BERKELEY -- More than 125 people gathered on the sidewalk and spilled into the street at the top of Solano Avenue at a Monday afternoon protest that joined hundreds of similar demonstrations across North America opposing construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Their placards read, "No keystone/no tar sands" and "This land is your land/It's not for tarsands." Musicians from Ocupella sang "Ain't gonna let Chevron Refinery turn me around" and "We'll be taxing corporations when she comes" as a steady stream of drivers creeping past the demonstrators honked and waved approval.
If approved, a $5.5 billion 1,179-mile pipeline will be built to move tar sands oil from western Canada to Texas.
On Friday, according to Reuters, the U.S. State Department released the project's Final Environment Impact Report, which says the pipeline has little impact on global warming and says replacing the Keystone XL pipeline project with freight trains carrying the oil could result in an average of six additional rail-related deaths and 300 oil spills per year.
But protesters oppose extraction of the heavy fuel, which the Sierra Club says creates three more times carbon emissions than conventional oil extraction and destroys Canadian forests.
"Stopping the pipeline is a life or death issue; it's environmental abuse," said Harry Brill, who helped organize the demonstration.
Brill helped found Tax the Rich, a group of about 35 people who demonstrate weekly in front of the shuttered Oaks Theater, targeting wealth inequality, especially cuts to Social Security and food stamps. Brill said people from CREDO and the Sierra Club came to him, asking to expand the regular weekly protest and join the nationwide Keystone demonstrations.
"We're hoping that the collective effort will help get the pipeline rejected," Brill said.
Protester Marilyn Jensen said the answer is in conservation of natural resources.
And Deborah Jordan said stopping the project doesn't take an act of Congress. "Obama can do it by himself," she said.
President Barack Obama is expected to make a final decision by next summer, though he faces no deadline.