Occupying McConnell's Office, 'Climate Champions' Demand Action Over Denial

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Occupying McConnell's Office, 'Climate Champions' Demand Action Over Denial

"Climate denial is not climate change policy," declares activist Yvette Arellano

Climate leaders (l to r) Jessica Lorena Rangel of t.e.j.a.s., Valencia Gunder of New Florida Majority,  Yvette Arellano of t.e.j.a.s., and Nancy Metayer of New Florida Majority on Wednesday on Capitol Hill. (Photo: 350.org/flickr/cc)

Climate leaders (l to r) Jessica Lorena Rangel of t.e.j.a.s., Valencia Gunder of New Florida Majority,  Yvette Arellano of t.e.j.a.s., and Nancy Metayer of New Florida Majority on Wednesday on Capitol Hill. (Photo: 350.org/flickr/cc)

Rebuking Republicans' climate denial, survivors of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma occupied the office of Sen. Mitch McConnell on Wednesday morning to denounce the fossil fuel industry's impacts on their communities and demand a just transition to a clean energy future.

Led by leaders of two organizations from recently hard-hit states—the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.) and the New Florida Majority—the group held a banner reading "Fossil Fuels → Stronger Hurricanes," and delivered almost 200,000 petition signatures demanding Congress take urgent climate action.

Explaining why they were targeting the Kentucky Republican, Yvette Arellano of t.e.j.a.s. said from the occupied office that McConnell "is not only the leader of the majority. He's also the leader of climate change denial."

The activists are there "not as victims," she said. "We stand here as survivors, as champions in the climate justice movement because our communities are the most vulnerable. Our communities are those that are disproportionately impacted by the effects of the fossil fuel industry and all of its infrastructure."

"We stand here demanding a transition over to 100 percent renewable energy, for a just transition," she said.

"Mitch McConnell, you can no longer ignore us," Arellano added. "Climate denial is not climate change policy."

Valencia Gunder with the New Florida Majority also spoke, and described the situation of frontline communities thusly: "First world country, second class citizens, third world problems."

"We want change when it comes to climate justice issues," she declared.

The time for debate, she said is over. Political leaders should "simply do your job, and stand up for what the people need."

"100 percent renewable energy ... is the only way our world will survive," Gunder said.

To those in Washington, D.C., she warned, "We will not be quiet. We will not be pushed out."

Climate mobilization 350.org captured scenes of the action on Twitter:

"We'll never be prepared for disasters like Harvey, Irma, or Maria while climate deniers are still in office, pushing dangerous fossil fuel projects forward," added 350.org executive director May Boeve in a press statement.

"Public officials like Mitch McConnell have been putting profits before people from the start, leaving communities in the path of destruction," she said. "The fossil fuel industry has a hold on our government, and we are taking it back. Today is a line in the sand, drawn by communities dealing daily with the impacts of the climate crisis. Real climate action isn't just saying the right words, it's standing up to the fossil fuel billionaires and building a clean energy future that works for all."

The "climate champions," meanwhile, appeared to leave McConnell's office peacefully after chanting, "We are the masses, the might mighty masses, fighting for climate and for our people everywhere we go."

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