Hoisting a huge banner that read “President Obama: Yes you can stop the Keystone XL Pipeline,” the students — some sporting gas masks and their signature green hard hats — marched to a coal-fired plant near East 18th and Lakeside, then looped around Cuyahoga County Democratic Headquarters at East 14th and St. Clair. There in the parking lot, dozens of students who worked in the 2008 Obama campaign stepped forward to say what they did in that campaign and to talk about the elation they felt when Obama was elected. They made it clear that while they still supported the President, they wanted him to follow through on the promises he made about environmental sustainability — with stopping the proposed 1,700-mile pipeline from Canadian tar-sands oilfields to Texas refineries a top priority.
“He told us to push him,” said one. “What are we going to do?” “Push!” shouted the crowd. They announced that they planned to “occupy” Obama’s Organizing for America campaign offices, like the one on Shaker Square, for a day, and use them to organize to stop the pipeline.
At Willard Park, numerous speakers addressed the crowd, including North Dakota activist Kandi Mossett from the Indigenous Environmental Network, who announced she was thinking of running for chairwoman of her tribe, and Arielle Klagsbrun and Ken Kumanomido, a pair of students from Washington University in St. Louis who collected money from other activists to attend an Obama fund-raiser in St. Louis in early October to make him aware of their concerns about the pipeline. They also heard from Clevelander Mansfield Frazier, who spoke about the negative impact of greed and corporate ownership of politicians, and We Are Ohio representative Loren Anthes, who talked about repealing SB 5.
What was striking was that there was not much defeat, despair, or even disillusionment among the crowd. They talked about organizing, voting, running for office, and leaning on officeholders to do the right thing. As Klagsbrun said, “One thing I’ve learned in the last three years is you can’t put your hope in one person. We need to push President Obama to be the President we know he can be.” — Anastasia Pantsios