It was not my first protest—it was my first arrest

It was not my first protest—it was my first arrest.

 Yesterday, I was arrested by the U.S. Park Police for failing “to obey a lawful order.”  143 demonstrators failed to obey a police order to move off the sidewalk in front of the White House. We were demonstrating our opposition to the construction of a 1,600 mile long pipeline that would transport a highly toxic form of oil extracted from the tar sands of Alberta to the Texas Gulf coast.

President Obama, who promised in his campaign to develop cleaner sources of energy, has the power to stop the pipeline and the attendant increase in the production of the dirtiest and most environmentally destructive source of energy.

 Mr. President – keep your promise.

 There are many reasons to oppose the pipeline. For me, the most compelling is that the people who live near the tar sands have been judged to be expendable. Studies have shown that arsenic, mercury, and other highly toxic pollutants are leaking from the tar sands containment ponds and adversely affecting the health of the people and wildlife, particularly fish and amphibians, in the area.  To produce the oil trees are bulldozed wholesale and the entire surface of the earth is stripped away. It’s even more destructive than mountain top removal.

The land has been judged to be expendable. Tar sands oil production threatens not only the life of the people but their entire way of life.  Transporting the tar sands oil by pipeline requires high pressure pumping. The proposed route would place it in the middle of the Ogallala aquifer, one of the largest fresh water aquifers in the world.  If a buried pipeline were to leak there who knows how long it would take it before it was detected? If it were a large spill, we would never get the stink out.

I feel obliged to add my voice to the voices of all the people whose health and way of life will be directly affected by the increased production of tar sands oil this pipeline would bring.  I feel obliged to add my voice to the voices of all the people whose land will be taken for the pipeline without their consent.  I feel obliged to add my voice to the voices of all the people whose water will be at risk of contamination by the pipeline. Their voices have been ignored or minimized.   Let us add our voice to theirs and demand,

Mr. President – hear our voices.


Rev. Craig C. Roshaven
Witness Ministries Director
Multicultural Growth and Witness
Unitarian Universalist Association

Interfaith Day of National Tar Sands Pipeline Protest Is the Biggest Day Yet


143 people were peacefully arrested, more than doubling previous days’ totals; Unitarian Universalists were the highest officially represented faith community of the protest

August 30th, 2011 – Washington, DC – People of faith from across the country converged in Washington, DC yesterday for the Interfaith Day of the two week long peaceful civil disobedience to stop the construction of the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline. The purpose of the protest is to pressure the Obama Administration, which has the sole authority to decide the fate of the pipeline. 143 people were arrested yesterday bringing the total number arrested to date to 522. It was the largest number of people arrested in one day thus far, more than doubling previous totals.

Of those representing a denomination, Unitarian Universalists were present in the highest numbers. Fourteen Unitarian Universalists were arrested, including two clergy, while an additional eleven served as observers and support, and one chaplain was present for pastoral care. Unitarian Universalists were called to participate by the denomination’s largest environmental organization and the national headquarters. One of those arrested is the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA’s) Witness Ministries Director, Rev. Craig Roshaven.

Unitarian Universalists have historically been committed to environmentalism and racial/economic justice. In recent years these commitments have converged in recognition of the racial and economic dimensions of environmental issues, including our reliance on fossil fuels and the consequences of global climate change. Both nationally and globally, while wealthier communities consume a greater proportion of fossil fuels, the effects of the resulting pollution are disproportionately felt by poorer communities, and these communities tend to be predominantly of color. In the case of the Tar Sands pipeline, the resulting increase in the production of tar sands oil and the construction of the pipeline will devastate Native American/First Nation lands even though these peoples will not benefit from the pipeline and have had no say in its construction. Because of this, Unitarian Universalists see the construction of the pipeline and the nation’s continued commitment to fossil fuels as unjust and immoral.

The Unitarian Universalist Association’s 2006 statement on “The Threat of Global Warming/Climate Change” remains one of the strongest on the moral dimensions of climate change made by a religious denomination.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact croshaven @