Last month PLAN leaders from across the state traveled with People’s Action to Washington D.C. to take part in a day of action in support of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP is currently on hold after a legal challenge filed by 24 state Attorney Generals, and with support from some of the worst corporate polluters on the planet. The CPP is a monumentally important first step toward inching back from the brink of climate catastrophe – an issue that means life or death for vulnerable, low-income communities and communities of color.
Below, PLAN leader, Sierra Norton Jickling reflects on on the day of action and why she thinks protest and direct action is important.
We loaded into buses early in the morning to head to the D.C. District Court House, where our rally in support of the Clean Power Plan was to take place. We started off the morning with a series of speakers, punctuated by rounds of chanting and cheering. Each of the speakers brought a unique voice, face, and perspective to the environmental movement. Some were angry, some were scared, and some were downright upset–but every speaker contributed to the sense of passion, urgency, and importance that was in the air that morning. Not many of the people passing by stopped to listen to what we had to say, and just a few slowed down to look.
Sometimes though, it is just as important to remind ourselves about why we commit as activists to a certain cause, as it is to educate others about that cause. Although we did not draw a crowd of non-informed strangers, we did bring a deeper sense of purpose and unity to our group of People’s Action folks.
After finishing up our scheduled speakers in front of the Court, we quickly made our way down the street to the National Mining Association (NMA), one of the groups that signed on to the lawsuit against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. There we entered the lobby and occupied the lobby there for about thirty minutes, chanting and having another series of speakers. After we had made our presence known, loud and proud, we left a letter of grievances with those at the front desk, and we exited peacefully. The security guards, while displeased, did not attempt any force with our group.
Immediately after our visit to the NMA, we moved again by bus to another part of town to the National Association of Manufacturing’s building. Once again, we entered their lobby and held space with speakers and chants, and a small yet decent sized group of individuals in suits were temporarily prevented from entering the building.
The downside of holding space in a lobby, which was the case in the last two direct actions of the day, is that the individuals that must confront the protesters most directly are likely the individuals in the building that have the least to do with the matter that the protesters are demonstrating against. In our case, those that seemed to be most dismayed or inconvenienced by our action were the security guards and front desk employees of both the NMA and the Association of Manufacturing.
Our real anger and grievances are directed at those that sit in the big private offices and make the decisions to spend millions of dollars against sustainable policies and environmental protection, but due to their socio-economic status and career, they are exceedingly unlikely to have to make contact with lobby protesters. That being said, it is worth noting that any protesting presence, no matter how small, at least contributes to any conversation around the issue that is protested. I believe this to certainly be true about the actions we held that day.
Following the direct action, we had some quieter time to spend making office visits to our representatives. For our Nevada group, we had a scheduled visit with Rep. Dina Titus (D) and a drop off of literature with Rep. Cresent Hardy (R). The drop off was brief, and we made our way to Rep. Titus’s office to meet with her office aide There we discussed the various bills that we wanted Rep. Titus to co-sign or vote in favor of–mostly, our conversation revolved around water, energy, and infrastructure. While the office visit could not have been insanely thorough due to the limited time we had, we hit on the most important topics and made our wishes known. I have never had the experience of visiting a representative of Congress before, so the opportunity was, for me, very eye-opening.