The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Environmental activists superglue themselves to the U.S. Capitol walls in call for action on climate change

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A group of environmental activists on Tuesday took a novel approach to calling for congressional action on climate change: They superglued themselves to the walls of a Capitol tunnel.

Some of the protesters were draped in bright yellow police tape, while others were wearing placards reading, “Due to the climate emergency, Congress is shut down until sufficient action is taken to address the crisis.”

A group of activists had used Gorilla Glue to fasten their hands to the doorjambs of a tunnel connecting the Capitol to the House office buildings, according to a participant who declined to give his full name. About 15 other people were helping, he said.

“We’re blocking this doorway because Congress isn’t taking the climate crisis seriously,” one activist told passersby, according to a video posted online by Extinction Rebellion, the group that organized the demonstration.

U.S. Capitol Police arrested 17 people in the Rayburn and Cannon House office buildings, spokeswoman Eva Malecki said. All were charged with “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding”; 15 were charged with defacing public property; and eight were charged with resisting arrest.

A video Extinction Rebellion posted Tuesday evening shows Capitol Police officers leading several demonstrators in plastic handcuffs toward a police van.

Members of the group said they are calling for a vote on legislation introduced by Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) that would declare a climate emergency. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running for president, is also a backer of the measure.

“What we wanted to do was to disrupt business as usual in the lives of the congresspeople as they headed to the Capitol for votes at 6:30,” said Kaela Bamberger, a spokeswoman for Extinction Rebellion D.C. She added that addressing climate change “should be their top priority.”

Several Democratic lawmakers, including Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), thanked the demonstrators as they passed by, Bamberger said. Ocasio-Cortez’s office confirmed Wednesday that she thanked the activists; the offices of the other two lawmakers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In an advertisement for Tuesday night’s protest, the group states that Congress “is not taking this resolution seriously.”

“Instead of moving at emergency speed as the situation demands, they’re dragging their feet. . . . And now, we have a team of brave activists who are ready to disrupt Congress like it’s never been disrupted before,” the posting reads.

Extinction Rebellion describes itself as “an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse.” It is based in Britain and has staged similar protests there.

It was not immediately clear how the demonstrators were removed from the Capitol walls and whether anyone was injured in the process. Bamberger said that one protester may have had her hand ripped from the wall by an unidentified person trying to get through the doorway.

She added that some members of the group were carrying acetone solution, which can dissolve glue.

“We were prepared with that if the police had started forcing them off,” she said.

Although the protesters attracted attention Tuesday night, they were less than successful in blocking the Capitol passageways. Staff members, reporters, police officers and lawmakers could be seen ducking under the activists’ outstretched arms to make their way past them.

“If you respect the climate emergency, you will go around,” one of the superglued protesters can be heard saying in the video, as a steady stream of seemingly unfazed Capitol denizens passes below his arm and through the tunnel.

“I guess not,” another protester replies.