Students participate in tar sand protests during international event

Approximately 5,000 people turned out for Canada’s “Defend our Coast” protests against tar sands, pipelines and tankers Oct. 22, including two Linfield students.

After reading about the event and hearing of others going, sophomore Andra Kovacs and junior Amanda Maxwell drove 11 hours Oct. 21 to Victoria, British Columbia, with another student from the University of Oregon to protest against the tar sands, which is something that Kovacs feels fervently about.

“This issue is something that I feel incredibly passionate about doing whatever is in my power to stop it,” Kovacs said. “It was absolutely phenomenal to see so many people turn out for that.”

The three students first attended training Oct. 21, in which they were designated to be marshals, a job that involved crowd control and dealing with the police and media. They chose this job as to not risk getting arrested while in another country, Kovacs said.

Tar sands are a way of extracting oil that creates large deposits of oil that are damaging to the environment, Kovacs said. The extracting is happening in Canada on lands belonging to the first-nations people, which was the driving force of the protest that took place last week.

The Defend our Coast action was one of the biggest peaceful civil disobediences that Canada has ever seen, according to Kovacs.

It involved going to the legislative building in Victoria, British Columbia, and filling the lawn in front of the building with protesters, a stage and black tarps that were approximately 770 feet long. They represented the tankers that were used to transport the oil from the tar sands. Tankers are also a large threat to the environment because they take a large amount of excess energy to transport the tar sands.

“The possibility of the tankers leaking or something going wrong with them is huge,” Kovacs said.

Protesters then proceeded to write messages on the tarp, a majority of them targeting two specific legislatures believed to have a large amount of power over what’s happening with the tar sands and to be abusing this power.

After setting up the protest, those who had turned out sat in solidarity around the legislative building in front of the tarp “tanker” and listened to speakers while the day progressed.

“It was hugely successful. Everything went flawlessly,” Kovacs said. “Seeing how well organized it was was incredible—it was really inspiring.”

Although police showed up for the protest, in the end there were no arrests made. They helped the protestors block off the main street in front of the legislative building with the tarp and handed out candy throughout the event.

“It was amazing, there were no problems whatsoever,” Kovacs said. “I’ve never gotten to be a part of such a huge-scale direct action before, and being able to do that for the first time with something that I feel so passionately about. It was absolutely phenomenal.”

In addition to being involved with the tar sands protests, Kovacs is also involved on campus as the service and sustainability coordinator, director of communications and publicity for Change Corps, member of Greenfield, member of the Advisory Committee for Environment and Sustainability, and coordinator of the TAP That campaign.

Outside of Linfield, Kovacs also has recently become involved with the Sierra Student Coalition, which had helped her become more involved in environmental issues on a national level.

“It was a really unique experience to get to see environmental activism taking place internationally and getting to see that perspective too,” Kovacs said. “The empowering energy that I got from that made me so inspired, so alive and so ready to really create change here at Linfield.”

Samantha Sigler

News editor

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