From Jim Matlack of Rockport, received by Judith Mitchell on Nov. 6 by telephone:

Two full busloads and countless carpools, train-passengers, and perhaps a frequent flyer or two, arrived in Washington on the clear, sunny Saturday morning, Nov. 5, to deliver the message: “No Tar Sands pipeline,” to President Barack Obama, by surrounding the White House.

The demonstration was organized by Bill McKibben of, and funded in part by Unity College, the 350 organization, and private donations. All bus and train passengers paid for their own tickets.

A crowd estimated at 6,000 people was reported on Friday; however, Jim reported that this number was far exceeded and that there were “at least, and probably more than, 12,000” people — from all parts of the U.S., who made this trip. Demonstrators represented a very diverse cross-section of Americans — young, college-age demonstrators perhaps predominating, but many older people were there and some quite elderly as well. There was a large group of Native Americans and significant numbers of African Americans and family groups, some having brought young children. Various clergy and faith-based groups were represented.

The Maine contingent also consisted of all ages, including a bus filled with University of Maine, Unity College, and College of the Atlantic students. The president of Unity College, Stephen Mulkey, was among them.

At one point, Matlack reported, he sat down to rest next to a woman from Nashville, and six African-American men from Louisiana.

Before the march to the White House, people gathered in Lafayette Park at 2 p.m. to listen to short speeches. Organizer Bill McKibben moderated the event and also spoke. Other speakers included Native Americans, particularly those from Western states, representatives from various conservation groups, Nobel Prize winners appealing to Obama as a fellow recipient, and a rancher from Nebraska. The crowd was so large, however, that the amplified sound could not reach the distant edges so a “mic-check pattern” went into effect — speakers delivered their messages in small bites, then waited, allowing the closest listeners to shout their words back to farther groups. The crowd was so vast that this process had to be repeated in several waves.

The crowds forming human chains around the White House were at least four to five people deep, and with stragglers and member of other groups, such as Occupy D.C., adding their numbers, the line at Jim Matlack’s vantage point at the back of the White House grew to eight people deep.

While there was a police presence, the D.C. police were consistently polite, cooperative, and pleasant and were very helpful with pedestrian congestion, giving directions, and were available for emergencies. No scuffles or police intervention were seen or reported. Mutual respect abounded and there was “a remarkable feeling” throughout the day, according to Matlack, who said spirits were high and energies were focused and magnified by the group’s shared goal.

Many demonstrators were issued identifying orange slipover vests with “Stop the XL Pipeline” emblazoned on them, but these ran out rather early due to the numbers of participants.

Thousands of signs and banners were carried — some pre-printed, but many were home-grown messages. Many had quotes from Obama’s campaign speeches, such as: “The threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing,” and “End the Tyranny of Big Oil.”

One group had constructed a huge facsimile of a pipeline, at least 100 feet long and 3 feet in diameter, that had to be held aloft, like a Chinese New Year’s dragon, by a number of marchers. It read “Stop the Tar Sands Pipeline.” While the crowds moved down the Washington avenues toward the White House, chanting began. Among the chants was the familiar protesters’ slogan “Whose street? Wall Street.” and “We are the 99 percent.”

An overwhelmingly successful galvanization of the democratic spirit, the mood was of solidarity and strength, and we await a decision from the president, who recently has sounded as if he hears the message, and has reasserted leadership for the Keystone pipeline issue.