The Sierra Club is taking a tougher stance on environmental issues and trying new, more agressive methods of civil disbedience to bring awareness to its cause.
The group isn't undergoing a sudden makeover, officials said. But events like a Feb. 13 protest, in which two of the Sierra Club's top leaders and 46 activists were arrested after tying themselves to the White House gates to protest the Keystone XL oil pipeline project, point to the group not flinching from more public acts of disobedience to get publicity for its views.
Some Sierra Club leaders insisted the invitation-only White House arrests were a “one-time” use of civil disobedience. However, others are saying new tactics – and not the club's usual letter writing campaigns and legal protests – are needed to fight back against what they say is Washington's refusal to act during a time of global climate emergency, Politico reports.
Protesters at the White House event said they were inspired by anti-Keystone sit-ins at the White House in 2011, brought together by climate group 350.org, which led to more than 1,200 people being put in jail.
Sierra Club members partnered with 350.org for the White-House protest and for a following anti-Keystone rally at the National Mall which drew about 35,000 people.
Sierra activists say the actions reflect how times are changing, and shows the new leadership tactics of Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, who was arrested at the White House along with Sierra Club President President Allison Chin, environmental lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr., actress Daryl Hannah and civil rights leader Julian Bond.
Brune joined the Sierra Club in 2010 after serving as executive director of the Rainforest Action Network and as a former Greenpeace organizer, and he has been arrested before.
The club has come under some fire after Brune took over. He discovered Sierra had secretly accepted $26 million from natural gas interests to fund the its fight against coal, and entered an endorsement deal with Clorox for the company's Green Works line.
Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica said the club has undergone a lot of changes since Brune took over.
“He brings a much more action-oriented style to the club,” Pica said. “I think he has the opportunity, and really, he is pushing the club into doing new stuff.”
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