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'Step Up or Step Aside': With California Engulfed in Flames, Climate Activists Occupy Nancy Pelosi's Office

"Our rage has to burn as fiercely as every fire we witness. And we're going to keep sitting in and striking until our leaders feel it too."

Dozens of young people occupied House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) office on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, demanding that she back a Green New Deal as wildfires burned through thousands of acres in her home state. (Photo: Sunrise Movement/Twitter)

Over 50 young climate activists from California staged a sit-in at the Capitol Office of Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday, chastising the Democratic Speaker of the House for failing to act boldly on climate even as their home state is engulfed by wildfires made worse by the planetary crisis.

"We're putting Congressional Democrats on notice. If you don't stand up for us, we'll vote you out in 2020."
—Claire Tacherra-Morrison, Sunrise Movement
After taking over Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) office earlier in the day, the climate activists from the Sunrise Movement proceeded to Pelosi's office where they displayed signs reading "What Is Your Plan?" and sang "Which Side Are You On?"

"Democratic leadership is failing to treat this like the emergency that it is," organizer Claire Tacherra-Morrison said in a statement. "Business-as-usual is killing us."

Several young people shared their personal stories and pleas for Pelosi to back bold climate action which could drastically reduce and eventually eliminate climate-warming carbon emissions.

Firefighters across the state, one protester said, "are trying to contain some of the fastest-moving fires that we've seen in the West Coast" while Pelosi is "putting the lives of Californians and U.S. citizens in continued and escalating danger by not rising to meet the active dangers posed by climate change."

"Democratic leadership is failing to treat this like the emergency that it is. Business-as-usual is killing us."
—Claire Tacherra-Morrison
According to climate scientists, the warming of the planet that's been accelerated by the hundreds of billions of tons of carbon released each year by oil and gas companies is making extreme weather changes and events more frequent, leading to a longer wildfire season in California.

"We have fires all the time in Los Angeles," Mayor Eric Garcetti told Democracy Now! recently. "But our ability to knock them in past years was much stronger because we didn't have these extreme shifts of wind, we didn't have these extreme shifts of weather."

Scientists say the climate crisis has made the state's wildfires five times as dangerous, the Sunrise Movement tweeted on Wednesday.

To truly serve Californians who for three years in a row have watched as wildfires burned through thousands of acres in their state, Pelosi must back a Green New Deal, the Sunrise Movement said.

Thanks to the grassroots group's pressure campaign, more than 100 members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors to Green New Deal legislation, the 10-year plan to transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

But Pelosi has not committed to holding a vote on the proposal and has not endorsed it herself.

Pelosi and all other members of Congress must support the Green New Deal, the Sunrise Movement says, or risk being voted out by young voters like those who took part in the Global Climate Strike in September and whose participation in the 2018 election was 79 percent higher than four years prior.

"Our rage has to burn as fiercely as every fire we witness—for the retiree who's lost their entire life savings, for the family forced to evacuate from a home they may never come back to, for the child suffocating in smoke miles away," said Varshini Prakash, co-founder of Sunrise. "And we're going to keep sitting in and striking until our leaders feel it too."

"We're putting Congressional Democrats on notice," added Tacherra-Morrison. "If you don't stand up for us, we'll vote you out in 2020."

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