Ellen Baumgarter

The story of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt saying that during a meeting with activists in the 1930s is apocryphal, but Ellen Baumgartner is a local activist who is holding on to the "make-me-do-it" method for getting Obama to deliver at least some of the changes he promised during his campaign in '08. A couple of weeks after being jailed for civil disobedience in front of the White House during protests against the Keystone XL tars sands pipeline, Baumgartner said she supports Obama's reelection.

"I believe in Obama. I think he has had tremendous challenges. But he has done a number of good things. People are expecting too much of him, because he has inherited a mess. Now, with the Congress being so antagonistic and determined to not give him anything that he wants, it's very discouraging. However, if the choice is between Obama and a Republican of the ilk we have been seeing, it's Obama hands-down."

In late August police arrested more than 1200 people near the White House. Protestors took part in civil disobedience against Keystone XL. It was part of a two-week long effort to send a message to Obama and anyone else who may be paying attention. Protests have continued, following Obama around the country as his reelection campaign begins.

The proposed pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Canada to Texas where it would be refined and sent to other countries. The project has united many environmentalists and human rights activists who say tar sands oil extraction violates the land rights of indigenous people in Canada and exacerbates climate change.

"We should let him (Obama) know what his supporters want him to do... He has the power to say no (to Keystone XL). He doesn't need Congress to approve of his decision."

Baumgartner and I spoke on Sept 13 at a protest against Keystone XL during Obama's visit to the Fort Hayes High School in Columbus to highlight his jobs program. She was among about 20 activists along Cleveland Avenue as Obama's motorcade passed. They held banners and signs and chanted: "Barack Obama, yes you can; say no to the tar sands."


Though this sort of activism is important, it may not be for everybody, Baumgartner said.

" I think we all take action in our own way, but for me, I felt this was an important thing to do. I felt called to do it. Back in the '60s, I would have loved to go with the civil rights marches and the sit-ins that went on in the South. At that time my heart was there, but I was at home raising three small children. I was unable to get away. So now, I'm retired and I don't have those kinds of responsibilities. I don't have to work. I have retirement income. So it's my turn to go, because I know there are others who would like to go but who are unable to, for a variety of reasons," Baumgartner said.

Actress Darrel Hannah, climate scientist James Hansen, and activist and writer Bill McKibben were among those arrested with Baumgartner on various days of the two-week civil disobedience. Police arrested 111 people on the day Baumgartner took part in the protests.

"We had very good training the night before. They (organizers of the protests) really wanted it to be a serious action. They urged us to dress as if we were going to a business meeting."

She said police were cooperative.

"They were waiting for us, but they gave us about a half hour to give our little talks and chants and songs and roll out our posters and banners. Then they gave us a warning that we were disobeying a certain law and that we needed to move. Then, those that didn't want to be arrested could leave at that point, but we only had a few people who left."

Baumgartner said the crowd of protestors in D.C. was only slightly more ethnically and racially diverse than the small crowd of protestors gathered during Obama's visit to Columbus on Sept 13.