Updated: Sept. 23, 2021 at 10:47 a.m.
More than a dozen protesters, several of them GW students, were arrested near the U.S. Capitol Monday while advocating for federal investments in renewable energy, public transit, public housing and schools.
A spokesperson for USCP said officers arrested 13 protesters outside of the Hart and Dirksen senate office buildings and charged them with “crowding, obstructing or incommoding” public building entrances after Sunrise GW helped lead about 80 people from Washington Circle to the Capitol. Demonstrators, also affiliated with American University’s Sunrise chapter, marched through the streets carrying signs reading “Green New Deal” and “Fight for a Livable Future” and said they hope the activism will help pass legislation that prioritizes climate protection.
Tara Stumpfl, Sunrise GW’s hub coordinator, said all of the detained protesters were GW students, who decided to engage in civil disobedience and “strategically” risk arrest to show legislators and bystanders their determination to enact policies that address climate change. Stumpfl said she hoped the protests would demonstrate that people have “a lot to lose” if officials don’t address climate change.
The Hatchet could not confirm the number of students arrested at the protest. The USCP spokesperson declined to release the identities of the individuals arrested at the demonstration.
“When we show what we are willing to sacrifice for this movement and for our futures, it makes people who are reading the story, who are seeing on the news or who are driving by or walking by our action, ask the question, ‘What is at stake here? What can I lose? Why are these people willing to put so much on the line for this?,’” she said.
Protesters marched along Pennsylvania Avenue from Washington Circle to the Capitol and stopped briefly near the White House to listen to short speeches from demonstrators. Dozens of USCP officers met the protesters near the Capitol and forced them to march on sidewalks instead of on the street.
Police released the arrested protesters a few hours after they were detained, according to a tweet from Sunrise GW.
Stumpfl said the protest sought to apply pressure on moderate and conservative Democrats, like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and urge them to pass a $3.5 billion spending plan including investments that would significantly decrease carbon emissions. Sunrise has protested GW’s ties to fossil fuel companies for years, advocating for the closure of the Regular Studies Center and demanding divestment from the fossil fuel industry – a commitment that GW eventually made last June.
“The goal is to tell conservative Democrats to choose us over Exxon and ask them the question, ‘Which side are you on?’ and demand that they pass the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill to fight for climate, fight for renewable energy,” she said.
During speeches and chants, organizers and protesters also called for improved schools, public transit, public housing, immigration policy and the implementation of the Civilian Climate Corps, a proposed government agency that would employ young people to address climate change and maintain public land.
Ozzy Simpson, a member of Sunrise GW, said he was arrested by USCP officers outside of the Hart Senate Office Building while standing in a parking lot Monday. He said USCP officers used zip tie handcuffs to arrest him and five other protesters before they crossed the street to the building’s entrance.
Simpson said he paid $50 to “post and forfeit” so he could be released from jail without admitting guilt to “incommodation.”
“It’s gotten to the point where just nicely asking, showing up in front of the White House, asking Biden or whatever, isn’t really enough at this point,” he said. “And we’ve tried that, and it doesn’t work, and so I think for me, it felt like it was time to put my body on the line.”
Simpson, a freshman from California, delivered a speech outside of the White House during the march to call on President Joe Biden to address the climate change that is intensifying wildfires in his state. In the speech, Simpson said he was tired of wondering whether his house would burn down because of wildfires and urged Democrats to take action against oil and fossil fuel companies that he believes are intensifying climate change.
“We’re counting on you, and we don’t have time to wait,” Simpson said.
This post has been updated to clarify the following:
This post has been updated to clarify that The Hatchet did not receive confirmation regarding the number of students arrested at the protest. This post was also updated to include a decline from the USCP spokesperson.
This article appeared in the September 23, 2021 issue of the Hatchet.