Wheeler, Schumer and a week of action in DC

This has been a busy week for Congress, which means it’s been a busy week for activists. On Tuesday afternoon, Drew helped run a training session at the Friends of the Earth headquarters in Washington D.C. and prepared to take action at Andrew Wheeler’s confirmation hearing. At the training, six of us (including Drew) volunteered to risk arrest by speaking out during the hearing.

The plan was to enter in pairs, splitting the roles so that one would stand and read out a story from someone impacted by Wheeler’s dirty EPA policies or by the government shutdown. The other partner would silently hold a sign reading, “Shut down Wheeler, not the EPA.”

protest in the hallway
Photo by Liz Gorman

The stories to be read were compiled from Friends of the Earth members and public reports on the impacts of EPA policy. The goal was to highlight the injustice of Andrew Wheeler’s confirmation hearing while hundreds of people are impacted by the ongoing government shutdown. With so many people unable to pay their mortgages or afford critical medications, why is Congress prioritizing the confirmation of a puppet to the coal industry to lead the EPA?

The next morning, we arrived on Capitol Hill to line up. We had to hide our posters in bags and under coats. But Capitol Police and Republican Senate staffers suspected something – and in an attempt to prevent any kind of disruption, they filled the hearing room with EPA staff and Republican lawyers before the public was even let in. For this reason, Drew and I were the only pair to make it successfully into the hearing room before the doors were closed and those still in line were moved to the overflow space.

Silent protestors hold signs while emily and other FOE friends are arrested for refusing to be quiet

Photo by Liz Gorman

We waited until Wheeler made his opening remarks and allowed him to introduce his family before standing up. I held a sign and Drew shouted out the story a Texas woman who lives near a coal fired power plant that Wheeler wants to allow to pollute more. Capitol Police ushered us quickly out into the hallway where more than a dozen allier were also chanting and holding up posters. Four more friends were ultimately placed under arrest for refusing to stop chanting or disburse from outside the hearing.

The rest of the crowd stood in the hallway outside of the hearing room with their posters in silence until all of us were escorted out. All six of us were released after paying a fine of fifty dollars.

Drew is placed under arrest for disrupting the hearing of Andrew Wheeler for EPA Administrator

Photo by Liz Gorman

Later that same night, we were back at it, attending a meeting with 350 to plan and train folks for an action the following morning at the office of Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. The plan was for a large group to enter the office of Senator Schumer and read out a letter demanding that he sign on to the Green New Deal. Members of the group would also tell their own stories about how the climate change movement has affected their lives. As we exited the office we would sing protest songs while two floors above, four people would drop a banner over the side of a balcony to be viewed from below.

Banner dropped over Sen Schumer's office
photo by 350

On the morning of the action, we met at Union Station and briefed a larger crowd that had not been able to attend the previous night’s training. Then we walked over to the Capitol to file through metal detectors and security checkpoints before making our way to Chuck Schumer’s office. The stories and testimony insider from impacted young people were powerful. And the songs and chants outside echoed through the hallways and marble lobby of the Hart office building. No arrests were made that day, since our banner team chose to comply with orders by Capitol Police to pull up the banner.

On the lower floor, the larger group continued to sing, and share stories of climate impacts, until we were warned to cease and desist. After a second warning, the whole group together then walked over to the park across the street from the capitol building, where reflections and feelings of hope were shared before one final song was sung.

Emily and our team with the banner after the action at Sen Schumer's office
Photo by 350.org

UPDATE: The Mercer Family caught again

Days before the 2016 election, a shadowy group called called Secure America Now made an “Islamic States of America“ ad imagining that Syrian refugees had overtaken America. It shows the iconic Hollywood sign changed to say “Allahu Akbar,” the Statue of Liberty wrapped in a burka and Ground Zero in New York City as place where citizens can “celebrate our Islamic victories.​”

It is, without a doubt, some of the most hateful, racist, Islamaphobic stuff I’ve ever seen.

You’ve probably never seen this ad, or heard of the far-right neoconservative nonprofit that paid for it. And that’s exactly how Secure America Now wanted it. They have no employees or volunteers, and their mailing address is a D.C. law firm. But group, had millions of dollars in funding. And they used those vast resources to run this hateful garbage on Facebook and Google with precise targeting to voters in swing states.

Thanks to the researchers at Open Secrets.org, we know that most of the money came from Robert Mercer and the Mercer family. If Mercer’s name sounds familiar, it might be because he and his daughter Rebekah are at the center of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which exploited the Facebook data of almost 100 million people to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election. We told you about the Mercers last month, and thousands of you signed on to this petition demanding Rebekah resign or be removed from the American Museum of Natural history.

If your disgusted and outraged by this latest scandal, here’s three quick ways to help:

  1. Sign the petition, if you haven’t already, to kick Rebekah Mercer out of the American Museum of Natural History. Racist, corrupt, climate deniers have no place in our public science museums.
  2. After you sign, or if you already have, share the petition on Facebook, Twitter or email friends a link to this post to spread the word.
    1. Share on Facebook
    2. Share on Twitter
  3. Chip in to support our ongoing work on this campaign. We’re planning an event with partners to deliver all the signatures to the AMNH next month and we need your support to fund travel, materials, and other logistical costs. We’ll have more info as the action plan develops.

Kick Climate Deniers out of the Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City is one of the premier institutions for public understanding of science in America. It’s a place children come to learn and develop a sense of wonder about the natural world. And it’s a top scientific institution looking into how our planet and climate have worked for the last million years, and what that means for big issues like climate change.

So what in the world is climate-denying sponsor of Breitbart News, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump — Rebekah Mercer — doing on the board?!

If Mercer’s name sounds familiar, it might be because she and her father are at the center of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which exploited the Facebook data of 50 million people to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election. Mercer is standing by Cambridge Analytica, where she sits on the firm’s board, despite an ongoing series of reports that the firm lied, stole, used sex workers and more in the service of conservative political campaigns like Trump’s.

Scientists from around the world and inside the AMNH have already asked Mercer to step down. But she shows no sign of bowing to public pressure.

Sign here to kick climate denier Rebekah Mercer out of our science museum. 

The Cambridge Analytica Scandal is only the latest in the Mercer family’s shady, and decidedly un-scientific exploits: The Mercer Family Foundation has spent millions propping up Breitbart.com and their leader Steve Bannon. They’ve supported dozens of climate-denying politicians from Ted Cruz to Roy Moore. And they routinely fund so-called think-tanks like the Heartland Institute, the CO2 Coalition, and the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide that routinely promote junk science denying that climate change is real, urgent, and a danger to our communities.

Clearly, Rebekah Mercer has no place on the board of one of our most famous science museums. But this isn’t just about kicking climate deniers out of our public institutions. It’s about making sure that billionaires can’t use their money to make climate denial and the politicians who support it (like Trump) seem legitimate. From her comfy position on the Board, Mercer can claim the attention, respect and even the tacit support of AMNH staff like Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But by standing together, we know we can win. Two years ago a lot of us engaged in a campaign to kick billionaire climate-denier David Koch off the board of the AMNH, and we won. Now is the time to do the same with Rebekah Mercer.

Sign here to kick climate denier Rebekah Mercer off the board at the American Museum of Natural History.