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Backed by Ocasio-Cortez, Youth Climate Activists Arrested at Pelosi's Office Demanding Democrats Embrace 'Green New Deal'

"Nancy Pelosi is bringing a squirt gun to a wildfire."

Jessica Corbett

Democratic Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York joined climate activists occupying the office of Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to serve as the next speaker of the House. (Photo: Waleed Shahid/Twitter)

Youth climate activists with the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats were arrested on Capitol Hill Tuesday for staging a sit-in at the Washington, D.C. office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—who is expected to serve as the next speaker of the House—to demand that congressional Democrats back a "Green New Deal."

Long a demand by the climate justice movement—and popularized in the latest election cycle by incoming progressive Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Antonio Delgado of New York, Deb Haaland of New Mexico, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota—a Green New Deal would pair actions to address the global climate crisis with policies to create jobs and a more just economy.

Some of the freshly elected representatives even joined the youth activists fighting for such a deal. Both Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib attended a summit with Sunrise activists on Monday, and while Tlaib spoke at a Tuesday morning rally near the Capitol, Ocasio-Cortez showed up at the sit-in at Pelosi's office.

"I just want to let you all know how proud I am of each and every single one of you for putting yourselves and your bodies and everything on the line to make sure that we save our planet, our generation, and our future. It's so incredibly important," Ocasio-Cortez told the crowd of activists on Tuesday. "We do not have a choice. We have to get to 100 percent renewable energy."

As The Intercept reported:

Ocasio-Cortez's decision to join the protesters and march on her own House leader sets a tone of urgency and combativeness that is rare on Capitol Hill. Walking into the Cannon House Office Building, she told The Intercept something new had to be tried. "The way things are done has not been getting results. We have to try new methods," she said.

While a new contingent of incoming House Democrats backs a Green New Deal, the groups that occupied Pelosi's office charge that party leadership "has no intention of fighting for a real climate plan in the new Congress," in spite of a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning that the global community has only a dozen years left to avert a climate catastrophe.

Calling on Pelosi and party leaders "to step up to the fight alongside us and create a climate plan or step aside to make way for new leadership who will," the groups are circulating a petition that tells House Democrats:

  • Champion a Green New Deal that would create millions of good jobs to transform society over the next decade to stop climate change;
  • Mandate that any Democrat in leadership must take the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, and reject campaign contributions from fossil fuel executives and lobbyists, and prioritize the health of people and planet over industry profits; and
  • A rising generation of young people of all backgrounds just helped flip the House with a record turnout. We will no longer tolerate empty promises and words without action.

Although Pelosi tweeted that she was "deeply inspired" by those who gathered at her office on Tuesday—and, in a statement, urged Capitol Police to allow the protests to continue—the organizers said her response was "not good enough."

Instead of just reviving a committee to study the "threats" of the climate crisis, the climate activists want the House Democrats to establish "a select committee to develop legislation for a total economic mobilization to transition our country toward a 100 percent renewable energy economy—as the IPCC has tasked every nation to do."

"We don't need more investigation," declared the Justice Democrats. "We need specific plans matching the urgency and scale mandated by the U.N.'s IPCC report on catastrophic climate change."

"Nancy Pelosi is bringing a squirt gun to a wildfire," concluded the Sunrise Movement. The protest comes as firefighters are battling historic fires in California—the state Pelosi represents.

Those who were not arrested at Pelosi's office visited the offices of other House Democrats to pressure them to sign the Green New Deal pledge.

Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, said on Twitter that she supports reinstating the select committee but that it should be required to craft a Green New Deal and no appointees should be recipients of fossil fuel money, aligning her demands with the climate activists' petition.

This post has been updated to clarify that the climate activists protested and were arrested Tuesday.


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