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Dozens of Green New Deal advocates arrested at McConnell’s office

Protesters supporting the Green New Deal filled Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office Monday. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Protesters supporting the Green New Deal filled Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office Monday. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Advocates for the Green New Deal descended on Capitol Hill Monday, and demonstrations led by activist organization Sunrise Movement resulted in dozens of arrests in and around the Russell Senate office building.

Protesters were focused on getting the attention of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who announced before the Presidents Day recess that he would bring the New Deal Resolution to a vote in the Senate.

The group, which included people from McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, filled the entryway of his office and lined hallways of the Russell building. As common for most lawmakers in leadership roles, McConnell works primarily out of his office in the Capitol building, not the one in Russell.

“Look us in the eye and tell us that the $1.9 million from oil companies is worth more than our lives,” said one young Kentuckian, referencing campaign contributions from industry groups McConnell’s campaigns have accepted.

“We have rights to good jobs and a livable future,” read the black t-shirts that many of the demonstrators wore.

The group had banners that read “Mitch, Look Us In The Eye” and “Kentucky needs a Green New Deal.”

The protesters, made up mostly of young adults, sang “whose side are you on, now, whose side are you on?” while jumping up and down in the hallway.

Capitol Police arrested 42 of the demonstrators, while those under arrest and their supporters continued to sing.

Those arrested were charged with D.C. Code §22-1307, “Crowding, Obstructing, or Incommoding,” according to Capitol Police spokesperson Eva Malecki. 

The demonstration then moved outside, where winds gusting above 50 mph didn’t deter the protesters, who continued chantings and singing and speaking about the ambitious proposal on climate change that they came to support. They looked on as arrested activists were led into large Capitol Police vans to be transported for processing. 

The Green New Deal, championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., is a massive proposal intended to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The non-binding resolution has little chance of adoption in the Senate, where Republicans hold the majority. McConnell’s move to bring it to the floor is likely an effort to both get the many Democratic senators running for president on the record on the resolution, as well as to demonstrate that there are senators on both sides of the aisle opposed to the outline.

McConnell, who is running for re-election in 2020, also seems sure to run next year on his opposition to the proposal. His last Senate campaign featured his efforts to stop environmental actions by President Barack Obama’s administration, something he repeatedly referred to as the “war on coal.”

Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley praised the demonstrators on Twitter, saying “the YOUTH have the POWER.” 

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this story. 

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