On Monday, 138 people were arrested after they lined the halls and filled lawmakers' offices to demand increased action on environmental legislation, according to NBC. The climate change protests on Capitol Hill have been increasing in size and enthusiasm in recent weeks, with younger generations leading the charge. And for those who are wondering what the protesters are demanding, it largely has to do with the Green New Deal.
The Green New Deal is the brainchild of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has championed the need for the prioritization of efforts to combat climate change in Congress. The plan is inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, which led the country out of the Great Depression.
Though its grand aim is to push for an emphasis on environmental legislation, as well an end to political contributions from fossil fuel companies, the most immediate and actionable goal for the Green New Deal is the establishment of a special congressional committee on climate change.
In an earlier sit-in protest at Nancy Pelosi's office in November, Ocasio-Cortez said, “This is about the fact that if we continue to allow power… with corporations to dictate the quality of our air… to dictate and tell us that we can keep burning fossil fuels, to dupe us, people will die."
On Monday, protesters backing Ocasio-Cortez's message were working to put pressure on lawmakers on Capitol Hill. NBC reports that middle and high school students filled Pelosi's office in the early afternoon, holding signs like "What's your plan?," "Do your job," and "no more excuses." Later in the day, Capitol Police told NBC that protesters were arrested for "unlawfully demonstrating in the Cannon and Longworth House Office Buildings."
Sunrise Movement is the group that organized Monday's protest. The organization is run by students whose aim is to eliminate fossil fuel money from political campaigns and donations, and to advocate for the Green New Deal. And there's nothing accidental about the rise of momentum in protests for the last few weeks.
Stephen O'Hanlon, a communications director for the Sunrise Movement, said to Earther, “The reason we’re planning this [action] right now is the Congress sets the agenda for 2019 before they go home for holiday recess, We have a handful of days to get the select committee on a Green New Deal on the agenda for 2019. We’ve been growing momentum for weeks.”
As of Dec. 5, the Green New Deal has the support of 17 members of the House of Representatives, as well as three Democratic senators, according to The Atlantic. If the congressional committee on climate change gets the green light in the New Year, it will begin to move forward on some incredibly ambitious goals, including getting the United States to run on 100 percent renewable energy. To put that in perspective, the U.S. was running on 11 percent renewable energy consumption in 2017.
But for the most part, Ocasio-Cortez has been undaunted by the challenge. Via The Atlantic, Ocasio-Cortez said at a town hall led by Bernie Sanders on Dec. 3, “This is going to be the New Deal, the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil-rights movement of our generation."