The 15-day campaign at the White House to stop the Keystone XL pipeline has begun, and thanks to the U.S. Park Police, it’s taken a totally unexpected turn.

In negotiations with the police prior to the action that began on Saturday, the police were very clear that what would happen after people were arrested was the vast majority would get what’s called “post and forfeit,” where you put up $100, get released from jail after several hours, and you don’t have to come back again. It’s basically like a traffic ticket.

But this is not what they did. Instead, after arresting the first day’s 70 people, they decided to hold most of them, all those not from within a 25-mile radius of Washington, D.C., in jail until a Monday afternoon arraignment. This works out to 48 or more hours in jail before being released.

Why did they do this? One of the police officers told one of the action’s lead organizers that the decision to do this was made “at a much higher level than mine.” Four separate police officers told organizers that it was explicitly to discourage other people from taking part in actions going forward. Personally, I believe this had the hand of the Obama administration all over it. They want this action to fail so as to relieve the rapidly building pressure on them to do the right thing and deny the Keystone XL permit.

This police response on Saturday reminds me of what happened several days before the beginning of the March on Blair Mountain. All of a sudden, despite many weeks of communication between the protest organizers and various state, county, and local government officials, agreements to camp overnight were revoked, pressure was put on a state park to deny us a place to camp, anonymous rumors emerged of a supposed plan to arrest marchers when we got out of Marmet onto rural roads, etc.

This didn’t deter the marchers or the march leadership. We pushed through our fears and concerns, we made tactical adjustments so we could keep the march going forward throughout the week onto Blair, and we made it. Indeed, the obstacles the march leadership and the marchers overcame made our action that much more of a success.

I hope and pray, and expect, that our movement will rise to this occasion the way we did in West Virginia two months ago. Let’s fill the D.C. jails to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and defend our right to a liveable and just future!

Go to www.tarsandsaction.org to find out more information and to sign up to take part in this historic, critical action for the Indigenous people of Alberta province, for those along the route of the dirty oil Keystone XL pipeline, and for present and future generations who are counting on us to move forward into a renewable energy future, not backward into extreme energy extraction and false, destructive non-solutions.