People Vs. Fossil Fuels: A Photo Essay

Monday, October 11th: Indigenous Peoples Day.

Representatives and advocates from the frontlines of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) fight joined hundreds of Indigenous water protectors, activists, tribal leaders and concerned citizens from across the nation for a powerful week of People vs. Fossil Fuels activism. On Monday, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we marched to the White House to begin a week of action demanding that Biden stop the fossil fuel projects that directly threaten Indigenous peoples and communities across the country. On Day I, over 500 people marched, and more than 135 people were ultimately arrested for a sit in at the White House fence. The last people to be removed by the US Park Police and Secret Service were Indigenous women and grandmothers. You can see the full press release from Day I here. 

Indigenous dancer in front of the White House on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Photo by Matthew Pickett
Indigenous dancer in front of the White House on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Photo by Matthew Pickett
Jason Crazy Bear Campos-Keck speaks against the Mountain Valley Pipeline on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Photo by Matthew Pickett
Indigenous water protectors are arrested in front of the White House on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Photo by Matthew Pickett
Barb Adams holds a No MVP No MVP Southgate sign. Photo by Maury Johnson

Tuesday, October 12: Fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis.

On Day II: Fossil Fuels are Driving the Climate Crisis, another 155 individuals were arrested while participating in civil disobedience calling upon President Biden to stop petrochemical and LNG export facilities in the Gulf, drilling on Native lands in Alaska, projects like the MVP and Line 3, and many other fossil fuel projects unnecessarily dooming the planet to a bleak future. On the same day, a new report from Oil Change International was released illustrating the potential for emissions reduction if the Biden administration were to stop 24 fossil fuel projects that currently lack federal approval, have not been fully constructed or where construction is yet to begin. The emissions of those 24 projects would be equivalent to 404 U.S. coal-fired power plants, or near 20% of 2019 total U.S. emissions. 

Day II saw a powerful interfaith group stand in solidarity with Indigenous allies and other frontline fossil fuel fight representatives, including people of Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu faiths. In the afternoon, representatives of the fight against the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota delivered more than 1 million petitions to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers calling for the agency to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and stop the project until they have done so. Two Water Protectors climbed flagpoles outside the USACE headquarters and unfurled flags that read “Free Prior and Informed Consent” and “Consultation is not Consent”. Read the full press release for Day II here. 

Photo by Matthew Pickett
Tom Eliot and Red Terry at the US Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters. Photo by Matthew Pickett
Casey Camp-Horinek, Environmental Ambassador, Ponca Nation of Oklahoma, speaks on Day II. Photo by Matthew Pickett
Indigenous dancer at The US Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters while more than one million petitions against the Line 3 tar sands oil project are hand-delivered. Photo by Matthew Pickett
ARTivism Virginia Co-director Joshua Vana stands in opposition to MVP and represents one of its hundreds of water quality violations, in front of the White House. You can sign up for the Violation Vigil project here. Photo by Matthew Pickett
POWHR Coalition’s Russell Chisholm speaks on Day II: Fossil Fuels are driving the climate crisis. Photo by Matthew Pickett 
Watch POWHR’s Co-Chair Russell Chisholm speak at People Vs Fossil Fuels, in front of the White House. Video produced by Matthew Pickett
Bridget Kelley-Dearing, Grace Tuttle and Red Terry at the White House. Photo by Joshua Vana.
STOP MVP at the White House. Photo by Matthew Pickett
Kevin Cramer Jr., one of the founders of the Palm Collective, “The Palm Collective (TPC) is a Black-led organization connecting individuals, networks, and grassroots organizations to end systemic racism in DC and beyond while creating powerful communities through Collective Action.” Photo by Matthew Pickett
Kevin Cramer and Raymond Kingfisher march to the White House. Photo by Matthew Pickett
The crowd makes its way to the White House, Donna Shaunesey sports a BIDEN STOP THE MVP sign. Photo by Matthew Pickett
A Violation Vigil sign makes an appearance in the crowd on the march to the White House. Photo by Matthew Pickett

Wednesday, October 13: Climate chaos is happening now.

On Wednesday, Day III: Climate chaos is happening now, more than 90 people were arrested in front of the White House, bringing the total near to 400 over three days. Representatives from areas like ‘Cancer Alley’ in Louisiana and many Native communities pointed out that the Biden administration has publicly promised to protect them from fossil fuel projects that he could cancel with the stroke of a pen — but thus far, he has not. Speakers pointed out that the climate crisis is happening now. Speakers shared about the floods, fires, heatwaves, hurricanes, and other fossil-fueled disasters directly impacting their communities, as well as the health impacts on the human populations subject to living near these projects. Community representatives made one thing very clear: they need climate action now. They are tired of, but stalwart in, defending their communities against these projects and suffering because of federal inaction. Read the full press release on Day III here. 

Grace Tuttle, Barb Adams and Russell Chisholm march to the White House. Photo by Matthew Pickett
Jorge Aguilar with Food and Water Watch marches to the White House. Photo by Maury Johnson
Biden, stop the MVP from polluting our water. Photo by Maury Johnson.
BIDEN STOP THE MVP. Photo by Matthew Pickett
‘Narrow moment to pursue action’ and Donna Shaunesey. Photo by Maury Johnson.
Water is alive. Photo by Grace Tuttle

Thursday, October 14: We need real solutions, not false promises. Only phasing out fossil fuels will deliver climate and environmental justice. We cannot rely on technologies like carbon capture and storage, carbon offsets, or nuclear energy.

On Day IV, another 130 individuals were arrested in front of the White House, bringing the total over 530. Over 50 Indigenous leaders occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) at the Department of Interior (DOI) for the first time since 1972, and issued this statement. A report by the Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Change International shows that Indigenous resistance in the last decade has stopped or delayed greenhouse gas emissions equal to at least 25% of U.S. and Canada’s annual emissions. In Biden’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day proclamation, he said “as President, I’ll make tribal sovereignty and upholding our federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations the cornerstones of federal Indian policy. I’ll support self-determination and promote self-governance.” Indigenous leaders continue to see these promises broken repeatedly, including his failure to stop the Line 3 oil pipeline that directly violates treaty rights.

Speakers at the White House warned against “‘parlor games’ like blue hydrogen or wolves in sheeps’ clothing like fracking. Or unworkable, fanciful Rube Goldberg contraptions like carbon capture and storage,” said Dr. Sandra Steingraber, who was among 330 scientists who sent a letter to President Biden the previous week, urging him to end all new fossil fuel projects with his executive power and declare a climate emergency. 

At the center of the People vs. Fossil Fuels mobilization are the following demands: 

  1. Stop approving fossil fuel projects and hasten the end of the fossil fuel era
  2. Declare a climate emergency and launch a just and renewable energy revolution. 

The full list can be found here

Photo by Russell Chisholm

Friday, October 15: We did not vote for fossil fuels. (Youth-led action.)

On Friday, Day V: We did not vote for fossil fuels, the arrest totals for the weak peaked over 650 people. Indigenous and youth climate activists led the marching crowd to the Capitol to conclude the week’s civil disobedience actions. 90 people were arrested on Friday after they occupied the street near the Capitol. On Thursday, White House press secretary acknowledged the activists’ demands, saying “of course we’re listening to advocates and people who have been elevating the issue of climate for decades” (Washington Post). Psaki further noted that Biden’s climate provisions in the infrastructure bill will have a significant impact in stopping the climate crisis if they are passed by Congress, which Senator Manchin of West Virginia single handedly threatens to derail. 

Indigenous youth and climate leaders sit in near the Capitol as part of Friday’s youth led action. Photo by Russell Chisholm
Violation Vigil signs on the way to the Capitol. Photo by Grace Tuttle
On the march to the Capitol. Photo by Russell Chisholm
POWHR’s Russell Chisholm and Maury Johnson pose with Karenna Gore, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Earth Ethics. Photo by Grace Tuttle
Deborah Kushner at the Capitol. Photo by Russell Chisholm
POWHR’s Russell Chisholm, Grace Tuttle and Maury Johnson pose with Karenna Gore, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Earth Ethics.
Deborah Kushner and Donna Shaunesey sit in near the Capitol. Photo by Russell Chisholm
Natalie Pien and Meredith Haines march to the Capitol. Photo by Emily Satterwhite
Attendees volunteer to march with NO MVP signs. Photo by Emily Satterwhite
Photo by Emily Satterwhite
Sonja Taylor holds a NO MVP sign on Friday. Photo by Emily Satterwhite
Grace Tuttle at the Capitol on Friday. To clarify, there are MANY left to go, and this poster refers to the ACP and MVP. Photo by Emily Satterwhite

So, now what? How can I show up against the MVP right now?

  1. Attend the Peoples’ Hearing on the MVP 401 on Monday October 25th at 6:00 PM and make your voice heard – the Virginia State Water Control Board must deny a Clean Water Act Section 401 permit for MVP to drill and blast through our streams and wetlands.
  2. Sign this petition from Appalachian Voices against the Clean Water Act Section 401 permit. Make a comment against the Clean Water Act Section 401 Permit by October 27th, 2021. Bookmark POWHR’s 401 landing page for ALL links and current information.
  3. Mountain Valley Pipeline emissions would equal 23 coal fired power plants, and the project threatens 236 of our Virginia waterways. Right now, together, we can end MVP’s destruction of common water and our shared future. Reject MVP’s request for a new 401 Water Quality Certification from Virginia and stop this pipeline in its tracks by joining the Violation Vigil Project now. The Violation Vigil Project is a full coalition artivism campaign to give poignant, visual and aural representation to the hundreds of water violations caused by the MVP. You and 300 others are needed NOW to give voice to every single MVP water violation, to receive your Violation Poster and begin to use it, and to come together in Richmond on December 11, 2021 starting at 1:00 PM for the Violation Vigil convergence event with ritual and song. Join the Violation Vigil Project:
  4. Sign up for POWHR’s newsletter to stay on top of calls to action, news, stories and more.

People Vs. Fossil Fuels + MVP in the News:


  • Common Dreams: ‘Biden, Can You Hear Us Now?’ Ask Indigenous Leaders Amid Arrests at Fossil Fuel Protest
  • The Washington Post: Indigenous activists come to D.C. with a message for Biden: Declare a national climate emergency
  • DeSmog: Indigenous Leaders Among the 136 Arrested at White House Fossil Fuel Protest
  • The Guardian: Indigenous protesters urge Biden to stop approving fossil fuel projects
  • Free Speech TV: “People vs. Fossil Fuels’’: Winona LaDuke & Mass Protests Call on Biden to Stop Line 3 Pipeline
  • Truthout: Indigenous People With Disabilities Are on the Front Lines of the Climate Crisis
  • The Independent: ‘Expect us’: Indigenous activists lead Washington DC protests to demand Biden declare climate emergency 
  • Insider: Sustainability has been a central operating principle for Indigenous communities for hundreds of years. 
  • Indian Country Today: Indigenous people lead White House protest with more than 130 arrests to demand President Biden declare a climate emergency and stop approving fossil fuel projects


  • Common Dreams – 155 More Arrested for ‘People Vs. Fossil Fuels’ Protest at White House

“Russell Chisholm, coordinator of Mountain Valley Watch and co-chair of Protect Our Water Heritage Rights, was among those who spoke at the rally Tuesday. Pointing to the years of opposition that the MVP has faced, he vowed that ‘we will continue to resist that project until it is defeated.’

Chisholm said that opponents will keep up the fight ‘not just to protect our water, not just to protect that tiny spring that feeds my home, but to protect our brothers and sisters who live along the Gulf Coast, who live with the climate-induced catastrophes all the way back to Katrina.’ The 303-mile fracked gas pipeline being built across West Virginia and Virginia is set to begin service in the summer of 2022 but still lacks some permits to cross water bodies and wetlands.”

  • DeSmog: Indigenous Leaders Deliver Petitions to Army Corps DC Headquarters, After 155 Activists Arrested at The White House
  • People vs. Fossil Fuels: Why Biden must act now to confront fossil fuels 
  • The Washington Post: At least 85 percent of the world’s population has been affected by human-induced climate change, new study shows 
  • The New Yorker : When Will We Have the Last Oil Spill? 
  • NY Daily News: Climate change is the ‘single biggest health threat facing humanity,’ WHO says 
  • The Washington Post: EPA head says he’ll act on climate even if Congress doesn’t 
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS/The Post-Journal: Indigenous Peoples Day marked with celebrations, protests 
  • The New Republic: A Simple Plan for Biden to Lower Gas Prices and End Fossil Fuel Hegemony


  • Common Dreams: 90 More Arrested as Victims of Climate Chaos Descend on White House
  • The Verge: Fossil fuels are forecast to dry up, but not soon enough


  • Democracy Now!: “People vs. Fossil Fuels”: Over 530 Arrested in Historic Indigenous-Led Climate Protests in D.C.
  • Sierra Club: I Risked Arrest in Solidarity with Frontline Communities to Tell President Biden: Choose Our Future Over Fossil Fuels 
  • The Washington Post: Climate activists ‘occupy’ Interior Department 
  • E&E: Energy crisis tests Biden’s clean electricity agenda

Friday + Beyond

  • The Washington Post: Arrests and clashes cap week of D.C. protests by Indigenous youth and climate activists
  • The Hill: Activists say 655 arrested during week of DC climate protests
  • Associated Press – Climate activists resume weeklong protest at Capitol
  • Grist: Two years and a pandemic later, climate protests return to Washington
  • The Guardian: ‘This is our last chance’: Biden urged to act as climate agenda hangs by a thread
  • Newsweek: Over 100 Arrested During Climate Protest at Interior Department, Some Reportedly Tased 
  • WYFF/KMBC/WBPF/WXII/NBC5/The CT Day/The AP: Climate protesters arrested after occupying federal government building 
  • Insider: Indigenous leaders led protests in front of the White House and briefly occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs, demanding an end to the use of fossil fuels 
  • Inside Climate News: Indigenous Climate Activists Arrested After ‘Occupying’ US Department of Interior 
  • Free Speech TV: People Vs Fossil Fuels
  • Yahoo News: Environmental Protesters Gather in Washington for Fifth Day Asking for National Climate Emergency
  • TruthOut: Over 530 Arrested in Historic Indigenous-Led Climate Protests in DC
  • Environment News Service: Climate Activists Can’t Wait, Biden Can’t Wait Either 
  • Cherokee Phoenix: Protesters arrested after occupying Interior Dept. lobby
  • WBUR: Climate activists confront congressional gridlock with week of protests

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Grace is POWHR's Coordinator. She enjoys gardening and fighting for a fossil-free future from Western Virginia.