WASHINGTON (AP) – Indigenous groups and other environmental activists marched to Capitol Hill on Friday as they continued a week of protest demanding Congress and the Biden administration stop new fossil fuel projects and act with a greater urgency against climate change.
Almost 80 people were arrested on the fifth day of the âPeople vs. Fossil Fuels â. That brings the total number of arrests during the week to more than 600, organizers said.
Under a banner stating “We did not vote for fossil fuels,” activists urged President Joe Biden to stop approving new pipelines and other fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency. Protesters urged members of Congress to “listen to the people” who sent them to Washington and take urgent action to phase out fossil fuels that contribute to global warming.
Capitol Police said 78 people were arrested for obstruction or overcrowding. Three of those arrested were also charged with assaulting a police officer.
Speakers said Biden was breaking his promises to act on climate change.
“It’s ridiculous. He promised, just like they have done in the past, ‘We’ll talk about it, we’ll put it on the table.’ Where is our seat? ” Asked Isabelle Knife, 22, member of the Yankton Sioux tribe of South Dakota.
âWe didn’t have a seat. We weren’t heard, âKnife said. âIt takes young people to be on the front line. We have to put our bodies on the line.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration “has been listening to advocates and people raising the climate issue for decades.”
Environmental activists “have important voices, and they have brought the climate to the forefront of the agenda when it wasn’t 10 years and 20 years ago,” Psaki said Thursday.
She urged activists and all those supporting action on climate change to consider Biden’s proposals in a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a broader Democratic-only plan to address social and environmental issues.
âHe’s trying to cross the finish lineâ¦ a huge investment and commitment to tackle the climate crisis,â Psaki said. âIt is in its legislative program that is currently making its way to Congress. This does not mean that his climate commitment ends once he signs it into law; it just means that this is what we are focusing on now, and it will have a dramatic and significant impact.
The Capitol building protest followed a sit-in Thursday at the Home Office in downtown Washington. Protesters clashed with police as they challenged pipelines and other fossil fuel projects and called for the declaration of a climate emergency. More than 50 people have been arrested.
A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said a group of protesters rushed into the lobby, injuring at least one security guard who was taken to a nearby hospital. Police and protesters clashed outside the building, and officers used Tasers against several unarmed protesters, a spokeswoman for the protest group said.
Home Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet member, was traveling Thursday and was not in the building during the protest.
The protest was part of “a historic wave of indigenous resistance” in the nation’s capital that began on Monday, Indigenous Peoples Day, outside the White House, said Jennifer Falcon, spokesperson for the Indigenous Environmental Network, a party of the coalition which organized the demonstration. More than 100 people have been arrested as protesters tied their arms and sat along the White House fence to urge faster action to tackle climate change.
The Andrew Jackson statue in the center of Lafayette Park in front of the White House has been disfigured by the words ‘Wait for us’ – part of a rallying cry used by indigenous peoples fighting against fuel pipelines fossils.
Protesters also climbed a mast in front of the Army Corps of Engineers office, demanding the shutdown of Line 3, a recently completed oil pipeline upgrade in Minnesota. The pipeline will transport oil from Canada’s tar sands to Wisconsin.
âIn November, we made the choice to vote for a president who said he would be the climate chairman, who said he would shut down the pipelines, and right now we are witnessing a betrayal of the White House and Congress, âsaid Zanagee Artis, co-executive director of Zero Hour, a youth-led climate justice organization.
âWe need climate action now. We are out of time to resolve this issue, âArtis said, adding that he had campaigned for Biden and called voters on his behalf.
“Blacks and browns voted en masse” for Biden, and young people voted in record numbers for a president who pledged to act on climate change, Artis said. Now Biden has the power to revoke permits for Line 3 and other pipelines “and he hasn’t.” It has the power to revoke fossil fuel leases and it has not done so.