130 More Arrested At the White House; 50+ Indigenous Leaders Occupy Bureau of Indian Affairs; Demonstrators Will March to the Capitol on Friday 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
October 14, 2021 

530 People Have Been Arrested for Civil Disobedience at the White House Since Demonstrations Began on Monday 

Led by Indigenous youth, demonstrators will march to the Capitol tomorrow with a banner that reads “Biden: We Didn’t Vote for Fossil Fuels” 

Today’s protests pushed back on the fossil fuel industry’s “false solutions,” like natural gas, blue hydrogen, and carbon capture and sequestration 

See Photos from Thursday’s protests & Video from the week

Washington, D.C. — 130 people were arrested for committing civil disobedience at the White House on Thursday, the fourth day of the “People vs. Fossil Fuels” mobilization, which is pressuring President Biden to declare a climate emergency and stop approving fossil fuel projects. 

Just minutes after demonstrations ended at the White House, over 50 Indigenous activists launched an occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Department of Interior for the first time since a similar action took place in 1972. 

“We will no longer allow the U.S. government to separate us from our relationship to the sacred knowledge of Mother Earth and all who depend on her,” reads a statement released by the Indigenous leaders at the occupation. “Her songs have no end, so we must continue the unfinished work of our ancestors who have walked on before us.” 

Indigenous leaders occupying the Bureau of Indian Affairs

The total arrests for the “People vs. Fossil Fuels” week now totals 530 people, with hundreds of more taking part in marches and rallies each day. After checking with Park Police, organizers have updated numbers for each day for arrests this week: 155 on Monday, 155 on Tuesday, 90 on Wednesday and 130 on Thursday.

Tomorrow, People vs. Fossil Fuels will head to the US Capitol in a march led by Indigenous youth with a banner that reads “Biden: We Didn’t Vote for Fossil Fuels.” Speakers will include youth leaders from Native Movement, Cheyenne River, Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective, Pueblo Action Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network, Sunrise Movement, Power Shift Network, Zero Hour and more. Demonstrators will meet at Freedom Plaza at 8:30am, and march to the Capitol, organizing at Union Square at the end of the national mall in front of the reflecting pool at 9:30am.

Young people and Native people are both key constituencies for the Democratic Party who helped secure Biden’s victory last November.  Native voters  and Youth voters–majorities of whom rank climate action as a top concern–turned out at much higher rates in 2020 than in 2016, and helped secure Biden’s margin of victory in key places. Analysis indicates that young voters were critical to Biden’s winning margins across the country, including in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and beyond. Meanwhile, Native voters heavily backed Biden in swing states like Wisconsin and Arizona. Now, as negotiations around the infrastructure bill drag on in Congress, Indigenous and youth climate organizations are showing an increasing level of frustration with Biden’s inability to deliver on his promise for bold action on climate, fossil fuels, environmental justice, and Indigenous rights. 

Today, demonstrators marched to the White House under the banner “Biden: Real Solutions, No Bullshit” to push back against the “false solutions” promoted by the fossil fuel industry and their political allies. These include promoting the idea of methane gas as a “bridge fuel,” and advocating for technologies, like carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and carbon pipelines, that allow the industry to continue with business as usual. 

Tom Goldooth, the executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, who was arrested at the White House, was among those who called out ideas like carbon credits and carbon trading as schemes that allowed the fossil fuel industry to continue to pollute communities and the climate. 

“In 1854, the great visionary Chief Seattle asked the U.S. Government how it thought it could by the land or sky. Now 167 years later, the sky is being bought and sold on carbon stock markets in the United States and all over the world,” said Goldtooth. “These carbon markets are targeted schemes that consist of cap and trade, carbon offsets, and carbon taxes that are the primary false solution to climate change. We cannot allow polluters to profit from global warming. Selling the sky is a scam and a coverup that corrupts the sacred.” 

Tom Goldtooth, the executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network

“We can’t rely on unproven and expensive technologies like carbon capture and storage to address our climate emergency,” said Basav Sen, Climate Policy Director, Institute for Policy Studies, who also took part in the civil disobedience. “They may never even materialize, so depending on them is a very dangerous gamble. We know what we need to do: stop digging up and burning fossil fuels, and make a just transition to renewable energy.”

Other speakers included Dr. Sandra Steingraber, who also took part in the civil disobedience at the White House fence. Dr. Steingraber was one of 330 scientists who sent a letter to President Biden last week urging him to use his executive authority to stop all new fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency. 

“President Biden, we are out of time to address the climate emergency, and the nation’s scientists are alarmed, terrified, radicalized by our own data,” said Dr. Steingraber, the leading senior scientist at the Science & Environmental Health Network. “It is our consensus that the world’s chances for avoiding irreversible and uncontrollable climate chaos diminish daily. That means there is no time to distract ourselves with shell games like carbon offsets. There is no time for parlor games like blue hydrogen or wolves in sheeps’ clothing like fracking. Or unworkable, fanciful Rube Goldberg contraptions like carbon capture and storage.”

“Climate justice is an economy of truth telling and it’s time to tell the truth about false solutions like carbon capture and hydrogen combustion – they are nothing more than fossil fuel subsidies and a lifeline for the Big Oil empire,” said Anthony Karefa Rogers-Wright, Director of Environmental Justice,  New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “President Biden and his handpicked climate advisors like Gina McCarthy must listen to his White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council who explicitly characterize false solutions as not beneficial for environmental justice communities.” 

Demonstrators also called out attempts to include methane gas, sometimes rebranded as “natural” gas, in the clean energy programs currently under negotiation in Congress. The hundreds of groups involved in Build Back Fossil Free, the coalition leading the People vs. Fossil Fuels mobilization, have repeatedly called on the Biden Administration and members of Congress to draw a hard line against the inclusion of any money for gas. 

“The Mariner East fracked gas pipeline has brought danger and destruction to families across Pennsylvania. But it has also helped turn the tide against fracking: Residents from across the political spectrum now support halting it,” said Ginny Marcille-Kerslake, Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer, Food & Water Watch, who took part in the civil disobedience today. “President Biden may falsely believe that won Pennsylvania on account of his support for fracking. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Fracking is a loser for our climate, air, water, health and safety. And the polls increasingly prove that fracking is also a loser politically. President Biden should take heed.” 

Additional statements from speakers who took part in the day’s events are below. 

Rather than engage in false solutions, the People vs. Fossil Fuels mobilization is calling on the President to: 

  • Stop approving fossil fuel projects and speed the end of the fossil fuel era.
  • Declare a climate emergency and launch a just and renewable energy revolution.

A more detailed list of demands can be found at: https://peoplevsfossilfuels.org/demands/

Groups involved in Build Back Fossil Free and the mobilization include Indigenous Environmental Network, Arm in Arm, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Climate Justice Alliance, Food and Water Watch, Fridays for Future USA, Friends of the Earth USA, Future Coalition, Global Exchange, Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, GreenFaith, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, Honor the Earth NDN Collective, Oil Change International, Our Revolution, Power Shift Network, Presente, Pueblo Action Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, Seventh Generation, Sunrise Movement, Unitarian Universalist Mass Action, WildEarth Guardians, Zero Hour, and more. 

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Additional Quotes: 

“There are no fanciful shortcuts to avoiding the worst impacts of climate chaos in years to come. The solution is very simple: We must halt new fossil fuel projects and proposals in their tracks, and transition rapidly to a truly clean, renewable energy future. President Biden needs to realize that we have no room for any new drilling and fracking, or faulty schemes like carbon capture that would only enable decades more of foolish fossil fuel dependence,” Emily Wurth, Organizing Director, Food & Water Watch. 

“It is no exaggeration to say that climate chaos is now reality.  While politicians are finally starting to acknowledge that the floods, fires, droughts and catastrophic storms sweeping the nation are a present day manifestation of climate change, it is of little value if it is not accompanied by meaningful action to end the era of fossil fuels.  Transforming our nation from one suckling at the teat of fossil fuels to one that is at the forefront of advancing clean and renewable energy, and dramatic environmental restoration is the bold political leadership we need from President Biden.  It is time for President Biden to deliver a legacy of environmental justice, environmental protection, climate justice and generational justice,” Maya K. van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network

“My family lost everything in Superstorm Sandy, my relatives in Puerto Rico were hurt in Hurricane Maria, and this year we were impacted again in Hurricane Ida. It’s time for President Biden and his administration to stop approving fossil fuel projects that supercharge climate disasters and poison low-income communities of color like mine. We need good, clean energy jobs, not environmental racism,” Rachel Rivera, member of New York Communities for Change

“Climate justice is an economy of truth telling and it’s time to tell the truth about false solutions like carbon capture and hydrogen combustion – they are nothing more than fossil fuel subsidies and a lifeline for the Big Oil empire. President Biden and his handpicked climate advisors like Gina McCarthy must listen to his White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council who explicitly characterize false solutions as not beneficial for environmental justice communities. Indigenous, Black, Brown, Asian and poor white communities have already been rendered into energy sacrifice zones, they refuse to be rendered into energy guinea pigs. We have the technology and frontline solutions rooted in Indigenous wisdom, Just Transition and Energy Democracy – what we’re missing is the political valor of the president and his political party to extricate fossil fuels from our economy once and for all,” said Anthony Karefa Rogers-Wright, Director of Environmental Justice,  New York Lawyers for the Public Interest 

“While the promise of carbon capture, blue hydrogen, and other false solutions is illusory, the threats they pose are all too real.  Sinking billions of dollars into new infrastructure that further entrenches the environmental injustice and systemic racism that underpin the fossil economy is a failure of leadership, a failure of vision, and a failure to deliver on one of the President’s most vital commitments. It’s time for President Biden to listen to his own Environmental Justice Advisory Council, listen to indigenous leaders, listen to frontline and fenceline communities, and end the carbon capture of climate policy,” Carroll Muffett, President, Center for International Environmental Law