A man is dragged off a stage.

Security carries a climate activist off the stage during a protest at a speech by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

(Photo: Climate Defiance/Screengrab)

'Granholm You Are Killing Me': Climate Activists Disrupt Speech by Biden Energy Secretary

At a talk by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, activists said that private security guards and Politico staff "brutalized" the demonstrators in their efforts to remove them.

A coalition of climate activists from CodePink, Climate Defiance, Climate First!, and Stop the Money Pipeline disrupted two talks at the Politico Energy Summit at Washington D.C.'s Schuyler event space Thursday, calling out corporate greenwashing and the Biden administration's approval of destructive fossil fuel projects.

At a talk by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, protesters rushed the stage chanting, "No MVP, no LNG, Granholm you are killing me." Private security guards and Politico staff "brutalized" the demonstrators, the activists said, choking some, body slamming others, and dragging one woman out by her hair.

"We heard the first eight minutes of the conversation with Granholm," Jay Waxse of Climate Defiance told Common Dreams. "From the beginning she was justifying the need for new pipelines, like the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Especially with her background in clean energy policy, these fossil fuel projects she and the Biden administration are greenlighting are especially horrible."

President Joe Biden and his administration have disappointed climate campaigners for failing to uphold a campaign promise not to approve any more oil and gas drilling on federal lands. Despite this pledge, Biden actually approved more drilling during his first two years in office than did former President Donald Trump.

In particular, the activists targeted Granholm over two projects: the Alaska LNG Project and the MVP.

The Department of Energy signed off on the Alaska LNG Project in April, despite the fact that its own environmental impact statement found that the project—which would export as many as 20 million metric tons of fracked gas overseas starting in 2030—would spew 2.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over its lifetime—10 times more than the Biden-approved Willow project.

"This carbon bomb would lock in billions of tons of pollution and cause severe harm to Alaska's arctic wilderness," Waxse said in a statement. "It's completely unacceptable."

Also in April, Granholm sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) affirming the Biden administration's support for the MVP that would carry fossil gas through Virginia and West Virginia.

"We've been treated as a sacrifice zone for so long that I'm absolutely fed up."

"Right now she is giving the thumbs up to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is a 300-mile long pipeline that would go through my home state, and we've been treated as a sacrifice zone for so long that I'm absolutely fed up and not willing to just sit by and let things like this slide," Climate Defiance organizer Rylee Haught said in a video interview after the action.

Granholm's talk began at around 4:25 pm ET, Waxse told Common Dreams. The first question Politico asked Granhom was about how she justified her approval of the MVP, but Waxse and Haught said in the video interview that her answer was not satisfying and that Politico did not challenge it.

In general, Haught criticized the way the media has framed the response to the Biden administration's sign off on fossil fuel projects.

Reports will say, "'Biden's ticked off some environmentalists,'" she explained, "when really they should be saying that Biden is currently harming the futures of all of us, not just the environmentalists."

The activists disrupted the talk at 4:34 pm, Waxse told Common Dreams. There were 15 activists in the room, including those filming, before security acted quickly to remove them.

"They ripped us out super quick," Haught said in the video interview, adding that she was so agitated by the response that she threw up in the parking lot afterward.

Climate Defiance documented security's aggression in a Twitter thread.

"The militarized response was unlike anything we've ever seen. A Black man was told 'we can shoot you, like you do each other,' the group wrote. "A woman had her neck mashed to the ground."

Climate Defiance said protesters were carted out by their feet, "one misstep away from a catastrophic injury."

The aggression toward the protesters carried over into racial profiling against other summit attendees.

"Black people who didn't even come as part of our group were summarily turned away. One was assaulted by a private security force—told the event was 'full' as white people in suits were allowed to stream in, unquestioned. Three unaffiliated Black women were kicked out," Climate Defiance tweeted.

The group criticized Politico for the violence of its response, as well as for taking money from utilities TC Energy—the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline—and Southern Company to fund the summit.

German media company Axel Springer—which has been known to compromise journalistic ethics to support right-wing talking points—purchased Politico in 2021, as Foreign Policy reported.

"Cancel you[r] subscription to politico. They hosted the event. They militarized it. They took money from utilities to pay for it," Climate Defiance tweeted.

In addition to the Granholm event, three demonstrators also interrupted a panel at around 1:50 pm ET that included Citibank chief sustainability officer Val Smith, presenting her with a "Greenwashing Award."

"It's hard to find a bank more committed to greenwashing than Citi," Arielle Swernoff, U.S. Banks Campaign Manager at Stop the Money Pipeline, said in a statement. "It has worked so hard to appear to be a climate leader yet is the most egregious example of a climate laggard. By almost every metric, Citi appears at the top of the league when it comes to funding fossil fuels and enabling environmental racism. As a global bank, Citi's greenwashing is playing a major role in stopping action on climate change."

Citi is the second-greatest funder of fossil fuels in the world, according to Banking on Climate Chaos. While the bank has set emissions reductions targets for 2030 and 2050, it has not detailed how it will work with high-emitting clients to meet them, the Sierra Club noted in March.

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