Congressional Staffers Arrested During Climate Protest in Chuck Schumer’s Office

In an unprecedented move, a group of congressional staffers were arrested on Monday after waging a sit-in for climate action in Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-New York) office in the Senate, demanding that the senator push harder to pass climate legislation in Congress.

Seventeen House and Senate staffers protested in Schumer’s office after a group of 165 staffers sent a letter to the senator and President Joe Biden on Monday demanding that the Democratic leaders take action on climate after conservative coal baron Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) killed climate negotiations earlier this month.

“We, staffers of the U.S. Congress, will not remain quiet and complacent in our own demise,” the staffers said in a statement provided to Truthout. “We see the impacts of the climate crisis in our home communities and the constituencies we serve and we refuse to be [sic] part in the enormous suffering and devastation around the world that will result from not passing climate justice policy this year.”

The workers held signs demanding climate action, including a large banner that read “Keep negotiating, Chuck!” Six protesters were arrested, per Axios: Saul Levin, policy adviser for Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri); Aria Kovalovich and Emma Preston, staffers for Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California); Rajiv Sicora, policy adviser for Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York); Courtney Koelbel, staffer for Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland); and Philip Bennett, staffer for Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota).

If Democrats in D.C. fail to act on climate before they potentially lose their congressional majority in the fall and Biden and states don’t majorly step up emissions reductions plans, it could spell disaster for the U.S.’s climate goals — and potentially the planet. Sans assertive climate policy from the U.S. and other major polluters, Earth is on track to warm nearly 3 degrees Celsius or even more by the end of this century, leading to more deadly extreme weather events, mass species extinctions and perpetually flooded cities and coastlines.

“Environmental catastrophe is unfolding before our eyes,” the protesters said. “These climate disasters will have a long lasting impact even when we are gone.” They hope that taking drastic and unusual action will push Schumer and Biden into action.

The protesters demanded that Schumer and Biden push to reopen negotiations with Manchin over climate legislation, and criticized the two Democratic leaders for “offering [oil and gas] pipelines and other problematic trades to secure his vote.”

In their Monday letter, the staffers encouraged Biden to strip Manchin of his assignment as chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, as Omar and other Democratic lawmakers have called for in recent weeks. They also asked Biden to declare a climate emergency, which advocates say could free up critical resources and authority for agencies to address the climate crisis.

The protest is one of several planned actions upcoming this week with climate nonprofit Fossil Free Media, including a press conference on the climate crisis with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Wednesday to demand action from Biden.

The protest comes as workers in Congress are upping internal organizing efforts, which several of the protesters are also involved in. Last week, congressional workers in eight House offices filed petitions to create Congress’s first-ever unions.