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Over 150 middle and high school students demonstrated at the U.S. Capitol building Monday to urge senators to back the Green New Deal. (Photo credit: Sunrise Movement)

Over 150 middle and high school students demonstrated at the U.S. Capitol building Monday to urge senators to back the Green New Deal. (Photo credit: Sunrise Movement)

'Done Playing by the Rules,' 20 Sunrise Activists Arrested at Capitol Protest Demanding Lawmakers Back Green New Deal

Over 150 middle- and high-schoolers gathered to demand senators "stand up or step aside" on the climate crisis.

Andrea Germanos

Twenty teenagers were arrested Monday at the U.S. Capitol as they took part in a Sunrise Movement action demanding senators back the Green New Deal.

Those arrested, which included one 13-year-old, according to Sunrise, were part of larger climate action by more than 150 middle- and high-schoolers calling for the lawmakers to "step up or step aside."

"Instead of leaving our classrooms for our day off, we are bringing our classroom to the capitol because our government is failing to protect our generation, and we're terrified," said 17-year-old John Paul Mejia of Miami.

Video shared on the group's social media pages showed activists chanting "Which side are you on?" and holding "report cards" giving non-Green New Deal backers an F-.  At least two participants took to the floor of lobby to give speeches about the importance of urgent climate action by lawmakers before police came and demanded they leave. A large group left and continued their protest outside Union Station while a smaller group remained and was ultimately escorted away by police.

Evan Weber, who heads political strategy for Sunrise, said that it was "Sad that this is what young people have to do to make our voices heard."

Don't expect the climate group to let up anytime soon. Among their upcoming agenda items are three consecutive days of "massive srikes" set to begin Earth Day, April 22.

"It's only going to get worse unless thousands take action and force those in power to listen to our generation."
—Selene Santiago-Lopez
"We're done playing by the rules," declared 18-year-old Selene Santiago-Lopez of Wake Forest, N.C., who was among those arrested Monday, in a press statement. "Our entire lives, we've seen politicians failing our generation and our communities. People are dying, I'm terrified about what my future will look like, and it's only going to get worse unless thousands take action and force those in power to listen to our generation. That's exactly what we're going to do."

"Building up to Earth Day this year," she added, "you can expect to see what happened today, but bigger and bolder."

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who unveiled the Green New Deal legislation last year alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), vocally supported the young climate activists and their Monday action.

"Young people deserve a future free from the climate crisis," Markey said on Twitter. "They deserve a Green New Deal that will protect our planet and create millions of union jobs. I stand with Sunrise Movement activists who took action today at the Capitol and will always fight for their future."


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