House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi offered a meeting to a group of young climate change activists the same day 61 people were arrested for demonstrating outside her office Monday, according to the Sunrise Movement, which organizes direct action protests against Democrats.
The organization told VICE News Monday that Pelosi’s office had extended the invitation for a meeting as they staged their second sit-in outside her office this month.
“We look forward to meeting with Leader Pelosi and hope she joins her colleagues in supporting the Select Committee on a Green New Deal,” Stephen O'Hanlon, a spokesman with Sunrise, said in a statement to VICE News.
In what Sunrise says was its biggest demonstration ever, more than 1,000 youth protesters from across the U.S. stormed the offices of major Democratic Party officials Monday to stage sit-ins in support of Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s select committee for a Green New Deal, a climate change policy proposal that would decarbonize the U.S. economy by investing in green infrastructure and jobs.
The Sunrise Movement is a grassroots-funded organization of climate change activists who range in age from about 12 to 25. The group stages protests and sit-ins against Democrats in the U.S. to push them left on climate change.
During the Sunrise Movement’s first sit-in, Pelosi released a statement urging police to release the demonstrators and promised to take action against climate change. But the protesters were pushing for an explicit agreement.
In a statement to VICE News Monday, a spokesman for Pelosi stopped just short of endorsing a Green New Deal.
“Addressing climate change remains a top priority for Speaker-designate Pelosi,” a Pelosi spokesperson said in the statement. “She has proposed reinstating a select committee on climate and looks forward to caucus-wide discussions with the committees of jurisdiction to determine the appropriate path forward.”
The same day, demonstrators also staged actions outside the offices of Reps. Steny Hoyer and Jim McGovern. McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat who is poised to chair the House Rules Committee, offered his support to a select committee for a Green New Deal during Monday’s protests, a big victory for the activists. Hoyer, of Maryland, will be the majority whip for the Democrats when they retake the House in January. Hoyer released a statement applauding the protesters’ commitment to action against climate change and promised that Democrats would take action, but Sunrise Movement protesters say his response wasn’t enough because he is not committing to a Green New Deal.
Ocasio-Cortez, among the furthest-left members of the incoming class of House Democrats, joined the Sunrise Movement sit-in at Pelosi’s office last month. After the protest, Ocasio-Cortez announced her proposal for a select committee for a Green New Deal, which would put in motion the first steps needed for the Green New Deal to become a reality. While President Donald Trump holds the White House and Republicans control the Senate, a Green New Deal is a near impossibility, but House progressives and Sunrise Movement activists say they are trying to lay the groundwork for drastic action against climate change in 2020.
Adding another obstacle to the Green New Deal is that Ocasio-Cortez’s select committee has relatively little public support from House Democrats. Only 22 members of the House have voiced their support so far, though Ocasio-Cortez said that internally members have asked about climate change in conversations about national security.
“I want to let you all know that your advocacy & protests are working,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “The landscape is changing.”
The Sunrise Movement supports the Green New Deal above Democrats’ promises of “action on climate” because it is the only specific, time-sensitive plan that has been publicly proposed by Democrats to address the climate crisis, which is expected to become irreversible in just 12 years, according to experts.
“Any plan that isn't this time-sensitive and justice-oriented isn't responding to the crisis at hand,” Jesse Meisenhelter, Sunrise’s spokeswoman, told VICE News last month.
Cover image: Sara Kenigsberg / MoveOn