While Sunday’s Forward On Climate rally in Washington, DC may not have attracted the hundreds of thousands of people that organizers had hoped for, it was still the largest environmental protest in U.S. history. Environmental causes in general, and the Tar Sands issue in particular, are gathering support across the country with an increasing number of groups becoming involved in direct action and civil disobedience protests. Even the Sierra Club has abandoned its 120-year-old policy of using legal forms of protest, officially taking part in a civil disobedience protest against Tar Sands. It has also been many years since anarchists were attracted to environmental protests in the United States, in the numbers that are currently involved in the Keystone XL protests.
Part of the increased profile for these issues has actually been caused by some of the companies and police departments dealing with recent protests. Their poor – and sometimes dangerous – handling of the direct action protests has provided excellent public relations material for the protestors. This in turn has garnered them more recruits and more donations to pay for both their activities and bail money for their activists. Recent attempts to use lawsuits to prevent direct action protests have also failed, as they have so many times in the past, with groups circumventing the lawsuit by simply changing their title and slightly changing the nature of the targets.
2012 was a very active year for direct action protesting by environmental groups, and there is every indication this trend will continue throughout 2013. Their tactics and their ability to spread their message continues to improve and learning how to tackle this issue effectively and safely will be vitally important for both the police and for the companies who will become the targets of these campaigns.