SAN FRANCISCO — Mimicking a similar protest in Washington, D.C., over the weekend, four UC Berkeley students were arrested Monday morning in San Francisco on suspicion of trespassing during a protest against the highly disputed proposal to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline.
ASUC Executive Vice President Nolan Pack, senior Ophir Bruck, sophomore Kitty Jones and freshman Jake Soiffer were among a group of nine protesters arrested by San Francisco police. After being in held in custody for a couple of hours at the police station, Bruck said he was cited and released in the early afternoon.
The pipeline, which has been contentious nationwide, would transfer 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from western Canada to Nebraska. In January, the U.S. Department of State released a statement concluding that the construction of the pipeline would have minor effects on the environment. During the summer, President Barack Obama said the pipeline should only be approved if it does not significantly worsen the problem of carbon pollution.
Last semester, the ASUC Senate voted almost unanimously to formally oppose the construction of the pipeline. The project has also been protested multiple times on campus by different members of the campus community, including CalPIRG, Cal Berkeley Democrats and Fossil Free UC.
Several dozen community members and students — including those from UC Berkeley, Stanford University and Berkeley City College — attended the protest to stand in solidarity with the nearly 400 anti-Keystone XL demonstrators who were arrested outside the White House on Sunday afternoon.
“The action from the East Coast was incredibly powerful, huge and visible,” Pack said. “This is the least we can do, for those of us who are comfortable with it, to put our bodies on the line for environmental justice.”
This is not the first time a CalSERVE executive has been arrested during a protest while holding office. In 2010, then-external affairs vice president Ricardo Gomez was arrested and cited for trespassing in the Blum Center for Developing Economies. While Gomez was not protesting in his capacity as EAVP, Pack said he protested as both a student and elected official.
The rally began at approximately 9 a.m. in front of the San Francisco Ferry Building, and the crowd marched to Spear Tower, which houses the U.S. Department of State’s regional Office of Foreign Missions.
During the march, the nine protesters allegedly entered the building without permission, planning to open the entrance to allow the rest of the crowd to join them in the lobby, according to Roberta Giordano, a UC Berkeley senior who attended the protest. By the time the other demonstrators arrived at the entrance, however, the doors were blockaded by SFPD officers, she said.
The protest continued in front of Spear Tower as the crowd chanted, “Hey, Obama, we don’t want no pipeline drama,” and “Keep that tar sand in the soil, we don’t want your dirty oil.”
About 15 high school students from the Head-Royce School, a private K-12 school located in Oakland, also attended the protest.
“The Keystone Pipeline is the wrong direction for Obama to take our climate policy,” said Robbie Manley, a senior at Head-Royce who had heard about the protest in a schoolwide announcement. “This is something we really need to make a change early on.”