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'Where Is The Leadership?' Climate Activists Arrested Outside Schumer's Manhattan Office

Arya Burke
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More than half a dozen members of the Sunrise Movement were arrested for blocking entry to Senator Chuck Schumer's Midtown office on Tuesday, as part of an ongoing effort to force the Senate Minority Leader to back—or even acknowledge —the Green New Deal.

On Tuesday, protesters who attempted to enter Schumer's Midtown office found the doors locked when they arrived. Police eventually showed up and arrested seven of the activists for blocking the entrance. They were given desk appearance tickets and charged with refusing lawful orders to disperse and blocking pedestrian traffic.

Sunrise activists said the action was the "climax of a campaign" meant to push Schumer to co-sponsor the Green New Deal resolution. In addition to protesting outside his office, the group has requested meetings and town halls with the senator to discuss his climate plan. They say they've been consistently rebuffed, or ignored outright.

Arya Burke, a 21-year-old Sunrise organizer who was arrested on Tuesday, told Gothamist that she felt it was "ridiculous" that Schumer would brush aside his own constituents. "We don't think we're being unreasonable," she said. "He's criticized the GOP and Mitch McConnell for not having a climate plan, but he's given us no response about our plan."

In its current form, the Green New Deal is a four-part stimulus program that promises to shift the country away from fossil fuels and toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, while creating thousands of living-wage jobs focused on the required economic and social mobilization. The proposal has energized young progressive and longtime climate advocates alike. Many have argued that it represents the first serious pathway to achieving the "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society" that the scientific community now says will be required to stave of catastrophic climate change.

Thus far, neither Schumer nor House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have come out in support of the proposal. While Pelosi has openly mocked the idea—"the green dream, or whatever they call it"—Schumer has seemingly avoided public discussions of the Green New Deal altogether.

A spokesperson for Schumer's office, Paige Tepke, declined to clarify the senator's position on the resolution to Gothamist, but offered to send us some information on background. That email touts Schumer's plans to put Senate Democrats on the offensive against climate change—something he recently told the Times as well—but makes no mention of the Green New Deal resolution. The spokesperson did not respond to follow-up questions about Schumer's support.

Earlier today, Schumer and Pelosi reportedly reached a tentative agreement with President Trump on a $2 trillion infrastructure plan. The two Democratic leaders were said to arrive at the White House with a "big bold" list of climate policies, though it's unclear whether any of those proposals were included in the agreement.

UPDATE: Angelo Roefaro, a spokesperson for Schumer's office, said in a statement that the senator "supports the goals and aspirations of the Green New Deal, believes the Sunrise Movement deserve enormous credit in elevating the climate crisis in the national dialogue, and looks forward to working with them to advance ambitious policies to reduce fossil fuel pollution and confront the enormous challenge of climate change."

The statement continued: "If he becomes Majority Leader, he would make passing an ambitious climate bill a top priority." The spokesperson would not elaborate on how that climate bill would differ from the Green New Deal.

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