Alec Johnson is a Day 1 Tar Sands Action arrestee form Columbus, Ohio. To join him and thousands of others at the Nov. 6th Tar Sands Action, click here: http://www.tarsandsaction.org/sign-up
Although I’ve been an activist for over four decades, what is unfolding this year gives me more hope than I’ve seen for most of my adult life. Given the unprecedented challenges we now face, the crossroads humanity now finds itself at – where nothing short of the fate of our species is at stake – this kind of hope is essential. Yet my lifetime of activism makes very clear that this kind of hope isn’t conjured up by Madison Avenue, media moguls, or well-funded political campaigns. It is made by hand. Indeed, it is made by many hands, and this year I’ve been present again and again to witness the wonder of this movement’s creation: our Occupation Nation.
I witnessed this in Columbus, Ohio where we have been fighting against the corporate-led assaults on public workers collective bargaining rights. I witnessed it in glorious abundance with 150,000 others jointly marveling in fellowship and dedication in midst of the winter we made warm in Madison, Wisconsin. And I saw it unfold again in Ohio when US Uncut activists confronted corporate Tax Dodgers at Verizon, FedEx and Apple storefronts this spring.
I was hopeful when I arrived in DC August 19th to prepare for the first day of the Tar Sands Action. We of the “Tar Sands 65” had no idea the authorities would foolishly decide to test our movement’s resolve by turning our non-violent arrests into extended incarceration. While the “medieval tour” of DC’s jail system was unpleasant, to say the least, everyone one of us emerged stronger and more determined in our triumph. That our numbers would swell to over 1250 was the most fitting compliment that could be paid to our efforts in the currency we hold most dear: building the ranks of our community of resistance.
And it is this same community of resistance, sharing the same concerns, fueled by the same determination, and joyously intoxicated by the hope we create together, that is now emerging all over our Nation.
Those who are convinced that political will is a renewable resource in America are wise, and we are witnessing that renewal everywhere. I witnessed it when I returned to DC for the last day of the Tar Sands Action. As I saw scores upon scores of courageous activists march in the rain with proud defiance from Lafayette Square to courageously occupy the sidewalk in front of the White House.
Returning to Ohio, I soon learned that President Obama was going to visit Columbus, and I was happy to help organize what has become, for him, a familiar greeting: “President Obama, Yes You Can: Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.” Solidarity with the police – first responders threatened by Governor Kasich’s attacks on their collective bargaining rights – gifted us a choice spot that Obama’s motorcade had no choice but to pass slowly by. And while our numbers were fewer, new faces along with old friends alike glowed with the same ardor and determination I had seen all year.
The President honored Ohio with yet another visit the following week in Cincinnati and again we were able to confront him, reminding him, and alerting our fellow citizens, that he alone can stop this terrible project. Many friends, some new, some well known, joined us in an action so spirited that our chants were featured in televised broadcasts of Obama’s visit.
I knew that I’d be returning to DC even before I left it in early September, for I was keen to join the October 2011 action in Freedom Plaza. I wanted to be a part of the People’s Occupation of DC. I wanted to be part of what has so quickly swelled to become Occupation Nation. Learning that Tar Sands Action planned on rallying outside a State Department hearing on the Pipeline that same week only redoubled my determination to return to Washington.
By the time I found myself in DC carrying Ohio’s Keystone XL Pipeline banner with people I had only met moments before, I came to understand that we were part of something hugely important. We were present at and part of the awakening of a movement that stands a very good chance of transforming this nation and our world, turning a corner away from omnicide and towards a far brighter future
When Bill McKibben declared that, “The reason that it’s so great that we’re occupying Wall Street is because Wall Street has been occupying the atmosphere,” he didn’t hastily stitch our movements together. He simply made it clear that we are one cloth, a single garment, together a part of humanity’s community of resistance, re-emergent and ready. So I will be proud to yet again help swell the numbers of Occupation Nation when I join my sisters and brothers on November 6th when “We the People,” make history surrounding our White House.