Young climate activists arrested at Biden’s Wilmington campaign headquarters: ‘We want a future’

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Twenty-one climate activists with the youth-led Sunrise Movement were arrested at President Joe Biden’s campaign headquarters in Wilmington Monday, as they pushed him to declare a climate emergency ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

“Young people are fed up and are calling on him to lead, right now — or lose,” said 28-year-old Dejah Powell, a volunteer with Sunrise. “It’s silly to assume that the young people are going to vote for you. Politicians work for us. We don’t work for them.”

28-year-old Dejah Powell, a volunteer with Sunrise. (Sophia Schmidt/WHYY)

The protest comes as polls appear to show support for Biden lagging among young people — and as the toll of climate-driven disasters mounts.

The world hit a key warming threshold last year, and saw record storms and devastating wildfires exacerbated by human-caused climate change. In the Philly area, heavy rain — which is becoming more common in the northeastern U.S. as the world warms — killed at least six people in 2023. 

About two dozen Sunrise activists took their protest inside the building that houses Biden campaign headquarters in downtown Wilmington, chanting, “Biden, Biden, can’t you see? This is an emergency!”

“Our homes are burning. Our cities are flooding. Our people are dying,” said Sunrise member Laela Zaidi. “We want a future.”

Wilmington police confirmed around noon Monday they had detained 21 people and were in the process of charging them with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

Young climate activists protesting at the Biden Campaign headquarters. (Sophia Schmidt/WHYY)

In a statement, Biden campaign officials said the president secured the “single largest climate investment in history.”

“President Biden is working hard to finish the job, while Donald Trump has promised to undo all the progress we’ve made,” campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt wrote in an email.

Many expect Biden’s likely GOP opponent would ramp up his attacks on the EPA should he be elected. Trump’s allies and advisors have said during a second Trump term, the EPA would foster relationships with the fossil fuel industry and cut environmental justice programs. A transition guide for an incoming Republican president written by a coalition of conservative groups provides a guide to “dismantling the administrative state,” including terminating new EPA hires, replacing the White House climate adviser with an advisor that would cater to the fossil fuel industry, and cutting the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in the Department of Energy, E&E News reported.

Sunrise has been pushing Biden to declare a climate emergency and launch an “all-out mobilization” of the government to stop the climate crisis.

Proponents of the idea, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), say an emergency declaration could help the president go beyond recent climate legislation and stop new fossil fuel projects. 

  • February 12, 2024
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