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'We Don't Have Time for This': Activists at Party Headquarters Demand DNC Hold Climate Debate

"We're not giving up—and we're not settling for soundbites. We demand action."

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. of the Hip Hop Caucus in front of the DNC on June 12. DNC chair Tom Perez said the party will not host an official primary debate on the climate crisis, and will restrict candidates from participating in third-party climate debates. In response, people gathered at the DNC headquarters in Washington, DC, to demand the party reverse its stance.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. of the Hip Hop Caucus in front of the DNC on June 12. DNC chair Tom Perez said the party will not host an official primary debate on the climate crisis, and will restrict candidates from participating in third-party climate debates. In response, people gathered at the DNC headquarters in Washington, DC, to demand the party reverse its stance. (Photo: MaryFrances Vorbach/Greenpeace)

We want a climate debate. 

That's the message from over a dozen progressive groups and organizations who descended on the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Wednesday to demand the party devote a debate to the climate crisis in the presidential primary debates.

The demonstration featured speeches and the delivery of 200,000 petitions to the DNC demanding the party provide a space for candidates to discuss how they will handle the crisis.

"The DNC is making it clear that the adults who got us into this crisis are unwilling to be the leaders to now solve this problem," U.S. Youth Climate Strike national finance director Karla Stephan said in a statement.

"We're not giving up—and we're not settling for soundbites," said Stephan. "We demand action."

The protest is a direct response to a Tuesday Medium post from DNC chair Tom Perez, who wrote that it would be unfair to prioritize one issue over others. The DNC "must remain neutral in both practice and perception," wrote Perez.

"If we change our guidelines at the request of one candidate who has made climate change their campaign's signature issue, how do we say no to the numerous other requests we've had?" Perez wrote. "How do we say no to other candidates in the race who may request debates focused on an issue they've made central to their own campaigns?"

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However, as The Daily Beast's Gideon Resnick pointed out, the climate crisis isn't seen as a marginal issue to the party's base.

The progressive argument against Perez is that a debate around climate change does not amount to a simple "pet issue," but rather one that voters and candidates alike have prioritized as an all-encompassing threat impacting people's everyday lives.

Green groups sounded off on the DNC decision in a series of statements.

"We can't wait another four years for the Democratic Party to start taking the climate crisis seriously."
—Brandy Doyle

"The irony of Tom Perez and the Democratic National Committee rejecting a climate debate while holding the upcoming debate in Miami, a city already impacted by storms and sea level rise, is not lost on us," said 350 Action's North America director Tamara Toles O'Laughlin. 

"The DNC is effectively denying the will of the people, when really they should've learned lessons from the 2016 election," added O'Laughlin. "All of us deserve to know how the next U.S. president plans to act on Day One to protect our health, safety, and democracy."

Time is running out, said CREDO Action campaign manager Brandy Doyle. 

"We don't have time for this," said Doyle. "We can't wait another four years for the Democratic Party to start taking the climate crisis seriously."

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