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

Donate, Rise, Burn, or Drown

Earlier this week I wrote to you about how, even in a time of climate fueled fires, super-storms and destruction, our movement for global climate justice gives me hope. Specifically, I asked you to come out to Rise for Climate Jobs and Justice action near you this Saturday, September 8, and see and feel that movement for yourself. And I still hope you’ll do that.

But I also wanted to ask if you can chip in $1.98 or more to support our work at this weekend’s Rise events and beyond. I’m in California now, and I plan to do more than march. I’ll be rallying with frontline leaders and taking direct action in the streets. Can you make a quick donation to support what we’re doing?

I’ll let you in on a secret: I don’t think another march is going to stop climate change. Big international shows of solidarity are an essential part of the movement – a way that (nearly) everyone can get together and call for change. But if we’re seriously going to change Jerry Brown and other local leaders’ minds, if we’re going to get the solutions we need to stop the climate crisis, we’re going to have to take bold direct action.

And that’s what 198 methods is here for: When the climate movement gets into the streets and takes direct action to force real change, we show up and provide digital tools, material support, and good old fashioned participation to help. That’s why I’m in California – and starting tomorrow, you’ll be able to see a series of videos and reports from Direct Actions happening all this week to create the change we need.

But, I can only be here, and only stream, record an broadcast all this stuff, because of generous supporters. So, if you’re in a position, I’d love it if you can chip in $1.98 or more to keep me going, and my camera rolling.

Show up with the Poor People’s Campaign: Because everybody’s got a right to breathe

Since mid-May, thousands of people have been rallying for policies to dismantle systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and environmental degradation. It’s called the Poor People’s Campaign, A national call for moral revival, and the vision was laid down by Dr. Martin luther King 50 years ago.

The call is for all of us to join 40 days of nonviolent moral action, and on June 3, the campaign will focus a week of action on “The Right to Health and a Healthy Planet.” Already, actions have been happening weekly outside of 35 state capitals and Washington, D.C. Thousands have shown up already, and hundreds have been arrested, Including me – Last month, I was arrested in an act of civil disobedience with the Poor People’s Campaign alongside more than a dozen neighbors, clergy, and friends in my home state of South Carolina.

This Monday, I’m asking you to show up and do the same. Will you join a local Poor People’s Campaign action focussed on our health and the health of the planet this Monday?

You don’t need to risk arrest, but there is training and support available for those who want or feel called to do so. All most states ask is that you RSVP and attend a short training on the morning before. Click here to learn more​:

There are lots of good reasons to get involved with the Poor People’s Campaign. Their call for justice on behalf of people and the planet is powerful, and it’s clearly catching on. And in a time when climate-fueled weather events from hurricanes to wildfires threaten more communities than ever, it’s always poor people, communities of color and the disenfranchised who are ht first and worst.

Just last week news broke that independent medical examiners determined that the official death toll in Puerto Rico from hurricanes Maria was closer to 4600, not the 64 fatalities Trump and his team have reported. It’s an outrage that has ​everything​ to do with our nation (and Puerto Rico, in particular)’s dependance on fossil fuels. And it’s a story that clearly connects the dots between Trump’s racism, climate denial, and the disastrous consequences born by our neighbors – especially those who are poor, brown, or dispossessed. ​

But instead of igniting a moral call to action to make sure there are no more Climate fatalities on US soil, the media overwhelmingly focussed on a racist tweet from Roseanne Barr.

I’m not saying this just to knock cable news and the main stream media. But it’s an indication that there’s something sick and wrong with our political discourse. I don’t know if sitting down in the street and getting arrested will change it or heal our political discourse. But Dr. King hoped so; In 1967 he said “People ought to come to Washington, sit down if necessary in the middle of the street and say, ‘We are here; we are poor; we don’t have any money; you have made us this way … and we’ve come to stay until you do something about it.'”

When I was arrested a few weeks ago, I was standing right next to a local reverend who was part of the civil right’s movement in the 60s. A few yards to my left, young people from a neighboring town who cared about climate justice, immigrant rights and more were also arrested standing for their principles. Every Monday for the last three weeks people of conscience have shown up for justice.  On Monday, they show up for the health of our people and planet.

If you’re ready to answer Dr. King’s call 50 years later – if you’re ready to show up, sit in, speak out and make your presence known for climate justice – there’s never been a better time than this Monday June 4. Click here to find the nearest Poor People’s Campaign Action, and sign up to join them on Monday.