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Truthdiggers of the Week: Bill McKibben and Protesters

Every week, Truthdig recognizes an individual or group of people who spoke truth to power, blew the whistle or stood up in the face of injustice. You can see past winners here, and make your own nomination for our next awardee here.

By the end of year, President Obama must decide whether or not to allow construction of a transnational oil pipeline — the Keystone XL — that would transport up to 900,000 barrels of oil a day from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas. The environmentally volatile proposal has thousands of people this week and next prepared to risk arrest in front of the White House in order to show Obama their disapproval. Those thousands of activists and their leader, environmental activist, journalist and author Bill McKibben, are our Truthdiggers of the Week.

More than 2,000 volunteers from across the country came to sit in with McKibben in a stand against the pipeline, and by Thursday more than 300 of them had been arrested, many held overnight. Most of the volunteers planned to participate again on Saturday, in what is meant to be the biggest day of action of the entire two-week protest. Many stood their ground Friday despite heavy rains and, while it remains to be seen how many will turn out in the face of the approaching Hurricane Irene, perhaps it is only fitting that a severe weather event occurs at the height of such a protest.

Truthdig reader Patricia, just one of many who nominated McKibben and the Keystone XL protesters this week, said that McKibben “has reminded us that civil disobedience is a powerful ‘NO.’ And by pledging to be arrested — and convincing others to do so — he has given us an example of how we might save the world from climate catastrophe.”

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Honorable Mentions

Former Army lieutenant and LGBT rights activist Dan Choi participated in the sit-ins against the Keystone XL pipeline in front of the White House this week, too. But perhaps more notably, on Aug. 29, Choi will stand trial for handcuffing himself to the White House gate last fall in protest of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In May, Choi rejected an offer by prosecutors to drop charges in exchange for six months of probation, an option all 12 other activists involved chose over the possibility of six-month jail terms. But Choi said his defense will focus on what he believes was an unusually harsh, unconstitutional law drummed up for his arrest.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission attorney Darcy Flynn was recognized in a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi on Aug. 17 for blowing the whistle in July on two decades of corruption. Flynn told authorities that the SEC had destroyed records of thousands of investigations since at least 1993, and as Taibbi put it, “whitewashing the files of some of the nation’s worst financial criminals.” While Flynn is prohibited from speaking to the media about the issue because of his status as a federally protected whistle-blower, Taibbi gave voice to Flynn’s honorable actions not only in his article, but in subsequent interviews.

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Bill McKibben, appearing on “Democracy Now!,” talks about the sit-ins and his arrest in the video below, at about three minutes in.

Matt Taibbi on “Democracy Now!” discusses his article in Rolling Stone magazine.

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