A group of activists have staged a sit-in protest at Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s congressional office, joined by an unexpected guest: New York Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Sunrise, a progressive environmentalist movement, organised the protest to push Democrats to act more decisively on climate change now that they will have control of the House of Representatives.
In a video of the demonstration, Ms Ocasio-Cortez is seen speaking to the crowd of protesters.
“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,” she said, before adding the need for renewable energy.
“We don’t have a choice,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez added. “We do not have a choice. We have to get to 100% renewable energy There is no other option.”
Prior to the sit-in protest, Ocasio-Cortez and Congresswoman-elect Rashida Tlaib of Michigan joined Sunrise’s rally near Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning. Ms Tlaib expressed her support for their protest. “This is the most American thing you can do,” Ms Tlaib said.
The congresswomen-elect were on the Capitol for their freshman orientation after their historic wins last week. Ms Ocasio-Cortez sit-in appearance would be the first time she ever visited Ms Pelosi’s office.
Justice Democrats, another progressive organisation, also joined the Sunrise activists, primarily made up of young protesters, in the sit-in protest in Ms Pelosi’s office. The impetus behind the demonstration is sparked by Ms Pelosi’s “intention to promote a ‘bipartisan marketplace of ideas’ and re-launch a toothless special committee from 2007 on climate change which resulted in weak cap-and-trade legislation passing the House in 2009 before failing in the Democratic-controlled Senate.”
In 2007, Ms Pelosi established the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming with former Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts as the chair. It held several hearings for four years until Republicans seized control of Congress and rendered the committee dormant.
The Sunrise movement are proposing something a bit more rough-and-ready: A Green New Deal. The Green New Deal would involve establishing a new select committee “tasked specifically to write policy on creating jobs and moving our country off fossil fuels over the designated 12 years that the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] has given us.”
Sunrise is turning to Democrats to take charge in combating climate change since “the GOP is corrupted by dirty oil money and will stall us at every turn.” In doing so, the environmentalist group is requiring Democratic leadership to take the “No Fossil Fuel Money” pledge. The pledge mandates Democratic leadership to reject any, and all, campaign donations offered from fossil fuel corporations and lobbyists.”
Ms Pelosi released a statement on Tuesday expressing her support for Sunrise’s dedication to environmental activism and in “reinstating the select committee to address the crisis.” But the activists said her words are not enough, suggesting she step down from Democratic leadership if she cannot commit to joining the Green New Deal platform.
In response, Sunrise released their own statement welcoming Ms Pelosi's support, but making note that words alone are not enough.
“[Forty two] have perished in Pelosi’s own home state of California from drought-drive fires in the last few days alone. Her solution is to resurrect a committee with no funding and no power to take legislative action,” the statement read, before saying that Pelosi should step down from Democratic leadership if she fails to implement the Green New Deal mandate.
"If Pelosi fails to issue this mandate, it’s time to step aside," the statement added.
Matthew Miles Goodrich, the New York political director for Sunrise, pondered why it is Ms Ocasio-Cortez that is speaking with the demonstrators at the sit-in and not the House Democratic leader?
“A question — why is it that @sunrisemvmt is in @NancyPelosi’s office, yet it’s @Ocasio2018 who’s speaking with us about a #GreenNewDeal?,” he tweeted. “Where’s @HouseDemocrats leadership? #StepUpOrStepAside”
The need for climate change reform has become a major priority for progressives. Last month, the United Nations released a report stating that, based on the current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, there is only 12 years left to contribute substantial action on the growing threat of climate change. Democratic leadership, however, has not proposed any new concrete plans to save the planet.
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