Not by voting in local elections (some sheriffs are elected, but not most police chiefs or officers); not by calling and writing Congress (some police are paid or mandated by Congress, but most are locally controlled); And not by marching in the streets, protesting, singing, or taking artistic action (though you can and should do all that as you are able, as we’ve been saying)
The murders of George Floyd, Dreasjon Reed, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, and countless other Black people at the hands of police have exposed what we’ve known for too long: Policing in the U.S. upholds a violent legacy of racialized trauma and control, diverting crucial resources from communities that most need them.
This is also a movement to address the longstanding trauma and harm policing creates and to finally invest in our Black and brown communities that have carried that pain for too long.
The U.S. spends more than $100 billion on policing per year. The city of Chicago spends more than $4 million on police every day, compared to about $600,000 on public health services. And they’re not alone: Police department budgets make up a disproportionate amount of overall spending in most major U.S. cities. It is well past time to reckon with the decades of racism that divest from services that actually keep communities safe and well. We must reclaim public money from the systemic oppression and inequity upheld by policing.
We are calling on ALL local governments to divest from police budgets and redirect that money to essential services in Black and brown communities most harmed by these violent systems. We demand our city budgets reflect what we value as a community. This begins with supporting life-giving resources, not racist and violent police.
So you’d think that Representatives like Ocasio-Cortez would be lining up to oppose this project, right? Not so fast. The Green New Deal resolution paints a vibrant picture of the future, but it’s silent on the issues of fossil fuels and pipelines. And until a few days ago, not one of our federal elected officials had spoken out against the Williams pipeline.
But when local organizers asked AOC to do the same thing, her staff said she needed to see more tweets first. Really? How many tweets, exactly, does the author of the Green New Deal resolution need to see before she opposes a pipeline in her own back yard?
This isn’t a minor issue to New York fracked gas companies: On Monday fossil fuel giant National Grid presented a plan to build the Williams fracked gas pipeline as part of a plan they said is supposed to cut emissions 80% by 2050. They’re trying to write their dirty pipeline into our vision for a clean and healthy New York!
This is the long version of our report back on the Walk the Talk action in Albany, and the #FirePruitt actions in DC – if you prefer shorter versions of these reports and updates, subscribe to our email list on the home page. We start in Albany, so click here if you want to skip ahead to the Pruitt news, click here. And to cut to the chase – we’re looking to raise another $500-$1,000 to cover the costs of this. The funds will be used to support travel and logistics and legal support for more than 55 people (all of whom need to return to Albany next week for a court date. Click here to chip in if you can.
Cuomo Walk the Talk
The week got off to an AMAZING start on Sunday with the Cuomo Walk The Talk Action Camp. about 100 of us gathered in Athens, a few miles south of Albany, for an all day planning meeting, art build and action walk through. It was an intersectional crowd with first time action takers in their late teens and twenties, and experienced grandparents who’d planned or participated in hundreds of direct actions before. Our friend Eric took amazing photos so you can see how it looked.
With our plans made, our art painted I shot everyone a quick email asking for donations and cued it to send the next day while I was at the action. It’s a good thing I did because Monday was BUSY!
We were just one of more than 100 organizations that endorsed the Cuomo Walk the Talk action, and every group brought something to the action. One of the biggest was busses: more than 1500 people came on 19 buses from Buffalo, Syracuse, Utica, Rochester, Elmira, Caroline, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, Oneonta, Binghamton, Westchester, the Hudson Valley, and Ithaca. Together we formed a massive crowd, too big for the sidewalks we were permitted to hold and pressed in close to hear Karenna Gore, Tim DeChristopher (Fresh from their necessity defense win in Massachusetts last month) speak alongside frontline community leaders from Sheridan Hollow. Sheridan Hollow is a frontline EJ community in Albany that is home to a power plant that used to burn trash. Now, Cuomo wants to convert it to a fracked gas powerplant, deepening the city and the region’s reliance on fossil fuels.
From the opening rally, we marched just under a mile to the Statehouse lead by beautiful art, two brass bands, and a whole lot of energy for our 3 demands — ending all fracking infrastructure, moving to 100% renewable energy, and making polluters pay, where we heard some more from young leaders like Lee of Sane Energy and Patrick of New York Communities for change. They fired up the crowd (tired from walking the last few blocks up a steep hill) and then lead people inside to rally in the only public space big enough to hold our crowd. More great photos from Eric here.
But it was at that moment that our “red team” split off from the main rally. Instead of going to the staircase, we headed directly for the Governor’s office. In the “war room”, decorated with murals of New York’s conquests in war, we sang and unfurled a giant sun-shaped banner that exactly covered the state seal on the floor. Then we marched for the Governor’s office, but the State police literally shut the door in our faces: locking the glass door from the main stairwell to the “hall of Governors” that leads to Cuomo’s ceremonial action. The message from Cuomo was clear: when it comes to demands that he Walk the Talk on climate, he doesn’t want to hear it.
But we weren’t taking no-answer for an answer. So 55 people including friends from BXE, Sane Energy, NYCC, and Food and Water Watch, sat down and refused to leave until Cuomo met our demands: ending all fracking infrastructure, moving to 100% renewable energy, and making polluters pay.
I was especially moved by the action that Kim and the team from Sane Energy had devised: Each of the 55 arrestees sat down on the floor, and one by one read a short statement on why they were there, which they’d also written on piece of red ribbon. Many people talked about the need to protect their children and grandchildren; some young people talked about the uncertain future their generation faces; and more than one person paid homage to David Buckel, a civil rights lawyer and environmentalist who set himself on fire to protest fossil fuel use, after leaving a suicide note nearby. After each person read their statement, they tied themselves to their neighbor with the ribbon – so that they were literally bound together by their stories.
It was a powerful action, and we were delighted to be able to support it by supporting several of the BXE arrestees and live-streaming the action on facebook where thousands of people watched along. Here’s a short video 350.org made of the action:
And here’s the Livesteam of the whole 3 hour long action.
The next day, I jumped in a car with a few of the BXE folks who’d been arrested and drove back to the DC-Baltimore area. But all 55 of the arrestees have to return to Albany next week for a court date. We’re raising money to send to Sane Energy, who coordinated the action and is making sure that everyone gets to their court date and stays free. If you can, please chip in to support this action and the ongoing support costs.
But Republicans went easy on Pruitt. Infamous climate denier Joe Barton of Texas told Pruitt he was “not the first victim of Washington politics.” And it was at that moment that the real action happened:
Although i was thrown out, Pruitt stayed on Capitol Hill for a second hearing, where he continued twisting the truth and defending the Trump Administration’s racist, climate denying policies. While I stood outside in the hallway with Erich Picah and staff from Friends of the Earth, several staffers for Democratic members of Congress thanked us for speaking out – and today, the papers are full of pictures from our action inside and outside the hearing room.
But it’s also become clear from Republicans’ weak questions and the tone of coverage on Fox News that Pruitt isn’t going to resign and Trump is less likely to fire him today than before the hearing. That doesn’t mean we’re giving up – it means it’s up to Congress to fire him, just as our petition asks.
Both actions this week had a similar theme: Confronted with a Trump administration that denies climate science and does the bidding of the Fossil Fuel industry, we need local leaders and Congressional Climate Hawks to take bold action on climate change.
But too often we get climate peacocks like Cuomo: politicians who talk a good game about how they care about climate change and support renewable energy, but also “frack us in the back” to quote Lee Z from Sane Energy at the Albany action. It’s the same story in Congress, where more than 140 lawmakers from BOTH parties have called on Pruitt to resign, but not one of them, yet, has introduced binding legislation to remove him or called for his impeachment.
That’s why we use digital tools to support direct action campaigns. By raising the stakes – with a sit in outside Cuomo’s office and standing up in an impeachment t-shirt at Pruitt’s hearing – we demand more than talk from our leaders, and we show that we’re not going to be placated with happy talk about solar power or “believing in climate change.” And by broadcasting these actions online, and providing ways for you to sign on in support with internet petitions, call in actions, and more – we expand the reach of those actions and share the stories that inspire us with a much larger audience.
Just like at the Albany action, where activists were literally and figuratively tied together by their stories, 198 methods uses digital tools to tie our direct actions for the climate together with a bigger, more powerful community.
If you value that connection, or want Drew to keep traveling to more actions (maybe in your town next time!) to deliver support, risk what others cannot, and bring you back recordings, live streams and online actions you can take in solidarity – please chip in to support our work.
In a time of record-shattering hurricanes, with Congress bought and sold by the fossil fuel industry, and FERC continuing to act as a rubber stamp for the gas industry — many of us are looking to states and cities to fight climate change. But real leadership is hard to find. Take New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: he talks a good game on climate action – but we need more than words.
In the words of Bonnie Tyler, we need a hero: an elected leaders who’s fast, strong, and fresh from the fight against fossil fuels. Specifically, we need Governors like Cuomo who commit to the following 3 demands:
Stop all fracking infrastructure projects.
Move to 100% renewable energy.
Make corporate polluters pay.
That’s why on April 23rd, we’re teaming up with allies from across New York in Albany to tell Governor Cuomo to walk the talk on climate. There has never been a climate march this big at the Capitol in Albany, and free buses are available from across the region. All we’re missing is you! RSVP now to join us in Albany on April 23rd.
Governor Cuomo says he’s a “leader” on climate change; that it is “gross negligence” not to address climate change; and that he’s taken “decisive action.” But for all his talk, only 3% of New York’s electricity comes from wind and solar and fracked gas pipelines and power plants are being built across the state. We’ve stood many times before with allies at the Sane Energy Project, We Are Seneca Lake, STOP AIM, and other New York Groups. Now, those groups are asking us to stand with them as they take action in Albany
So, this Earth Day, it’s time for Governor Cuomo to walk his talk by:
Stop all fracked gas infrastructure, including pipelines, power plants, and compressor stations. They poison local communities, and further shackle New York to decades more of dirty fossil fuels. If it’s dangerous to frack in New York, then it’s just as bad to import fracked gas from neighboring states.
Move rapidly to 100% renewable energy, with a just transition that creates thousands of good, union jobs, and ensures resources are prioritized to those communities most vulnerable to climate change, especially low-income and communities of color. If Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey can commit to 100%, then so should Cuomo.
Make corporate polluters pay for the pollution they dump into our atmosphere, which damages our health and destabilizes our climate. Then use the money to fund an equitable transition to 100% renewables.
The event will start with an energetic, family friendly march to the Capitol and then pack the building with our collective power. I’ll also be working with some friends to participate in a civil disobedience action. More details on the day of the march will be available soon — RSVP at the link above to get all the details.
Brave climate leadership isn’t going to come from Washington. It’s going to come from us, if we step up and make our Governor work for the people and the climate. See you on April 23rd in Albany!