Some of the protesters on Washington's National Mall
Thousands of protesters gathered on the Washington's National Mall on Sunday calling on President Barack Obama to reject the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline proposal and honour his inaugural pledge to act on climate change.
Organizers of the "Forward on Climate" event estimated that 35,000 people from 30 states turned out in cold, blustery conditions for what they said was the biggest climate rally in U.S. history. Police did not verify the crowd size.
Protesters also marched around the nearby White House, chanting "Keystone pipeline? Shut it down." Among the celebrities on hand were actresses Rosario Dawson and Evangeline Lilly, and hedge fund manager and environmentalist Tom Steyer.
The event came days after a bipartisan group of U.S. senators made the latest call for Obama to approve the $5.3 billion pipeline, seen by many as an engine for job growth and another step toward energy independence, reports Reuters.
A new poll by Harris Interactive showed 69 percent of respondents said they support construction of the pipeline, with only 17 percent saying they oppose it.
One of Sunday's main organizers, climate activist Bill McKibben, said that approving the pipeline, which would transport crude oil from the oil sands of northern Alberta to refineries and ports in Texas, would be akin to lighting a "carbon bomb" that could cause irreparable harm to the climate.
"For 25 years our government has basically ignored the climate crisis: now people in large numbers are finally demanding they get to work," said McKibben, founder of the environmental group 350.org.