Dozens of people were arrested outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) after more than 200 people stormed inside and demanded a meeting with the senator on a proposal to address climate change.
The protest — the first of the week planned at senators’ offices around the country — was a response to McConnell’s plan to hold a vote on the Green New Deal, a sweeping climate and economic change manifesto spearheaded by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), organizers said.
The proposal before the Senate — which is a nonbinding resolution — calls for an overhaul of American infrastructure, manufacturing and transportation systems in an effort to reduce carbon emissions across the country.
McConnell, who has called for a vote on the measure in an effort to paint Democrats as divided, was nowhere to be found Monday as demonstrators packed his office and staged a sit-in in the hall outside.
Stephanie Penn, a spokeswoman for McConnell, said that, “as with all Kentuckians visiting D.C., we welcomed them to the office.” About 20 of the protesters were high school students from Kentucky, organizers said.
Last week, Penn said, the senator’s Kentucky director offered to meet with the group, but the students declined. When the group returned Thursday, she said, the students and the director met in person to discuss their concerns.
Though the demonstration featured protesters as young as 7, all of the 42 arrested were over 18, police said. Officers zip-tied the wrists of demonstrators before leading them away. They were charged with unlawful crowding, obstructing or incommoding after dozens refused to clear the hall.
Organizers said the high school students from Kentucky traveled to Washington on Monday after being unable to reach McConnell at his office in Louisville, despite camping out there for several days.
“They decided to come to D.C. because they were told by staff at his office in Kentucky that he’s here this week. But no matter where they go, he’s not listening to his constituents,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, spokesman and organizer for the Sunrise Movement. “We want to put senators on notice that if they don’t put us before the interests of oil and gas, we’re going to remember that when it’s our turn to vote them out.”
At a rally Monday outside Union Station, speakers highlighted recent natural disasters, lost job opportunities and other things they said were the result of politicians’ unwillingness to adequately address climate change.
The Sunrise Movement, a self-described “army of young people,” is the same group that organized a confrontation between Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and about 15 middle and high school students from the San Francisco area last week. In a testy exchange with the children at her San Francisco office, Feinstein said that “you come in here and you say it has to be my way or the highway.” She said that she “doesn’t respond to that.”
An edited video of the exchange tweeted by the group has been viewed more than 9 million times.
Outside McConnell’s office Monday, young activists held up yellow signs that said “Green New Deal now — step up or step aside” and, “Mitch, look us in the eyes.”
As they were being led away by police, protesters sang in unison.
On Tuesday, more than 70 protests and sit-ins are scheduled at congressional offices around the country, where young activists will ask their representatives to support the Green New Deal.
“Young people, especially people under 18, are going to be the most impacted by climate change, and it’s morally reprehensible for politicians to not take young voices seriously on this issue,” O’Hanlon said. “They’re the ones are going to be affected by it — not Mitch McConnell.”