It was a Saturday night in September
when 160 or so middle and high school students logged on to a Zoom
call about how to confront American politicians using tactics
inspired by young civil rights activists fighting for the abolition
The teenagers were online with the
Sunrise Movement, a nationwide youth-led climate justice
collective, to learn about organizing Wide Awake actions — noisy
night-time protests — to force lawmakers accused of ignoring the
climate emergency and racial injustice to listen to their
It’s a civil disobedience tactic
devised by the Wide Awakes — a radical youth abolitionist
organization who confronted anti-abolitionists at night by banging
pots and pans outside their homes in the run-up to the Civil
Now, in the run-up to one of the most
momentous elections in modern history, a new generation of young
Americans who say they are tired of asking nicely and being
ignored, are naming and shaming U.S. politicians in an effort to
get their concerns about the planet, police brutality,
inequalities, and immigration heard.
The first one targeted the Kentucky
senator Mitch McConnell after details emerged about the police
killing of Breonna Taylor. In the days following the death of
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sunrise activists woke up key
Republican senators, including McConnell and Lindsey Graham,
demanding that they delay the vote on Trump’s Supreme Court
nominee until a new president is sworn in.
“Even though we can’t vote, we
can show up on the streets and wake up politicians. It’s our
future on the line, not theirs,” said 17-year-old Abby DiNardo, a
senior from Delaware County. The high school senior recently
coordinated a Wide Awake action outside the home of the Republican
senator Pat Toomey, a former Wall Street banker who has repeatedly
voted against climate action measures.
The Sunrise Movement was founded by a
small group of disparate young activists in 2017 and initially
focused on helping elect proponents of clean energy in the 2018
activists rallied outside Senator Mitch McConnell’s office,
advocating for the Green New Deal in February 2019. Aurora Samperio
/ NurPhoto via Getty Images
It has since evolved into an
influential youth-led political movement, with more than 400 hubs
nationwide that use rallies, sit-ins and old-fashioned voter outreach to help elect
local, state and national candidates who back key progressive
issues such as the Green New
Deal and police and immigration reform.
Sunrise members made about 200,000
calls to help Senator Ed Markey, a leading Green New Deal sponsor,
Massachusetts Democratic primary election against Joe Kennedy,
who was backed by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.
On Thursday, middle school students
gathered outside the Philadelphia constitution center during Joe
Biden’s ABC town hall to demanded a better, bolder climate action
plan from the Democratic presidential candidate.
“Zero emissions by 2050 isn’t
fast enough,” said Maddy King, 13. “Climate change is already
happening, it’s not a theory. If I do my part, I hope others will
be empowered to fight for future generations too.”
Amid a mounting sense of urgency
fueled by Black Lives Matter protests, wildfires, and COVID-19, the
movement has become notably younger.
Solei Yoder Salim, a sophomore from
Lancaster, last month co-founded a high school hub which already
has 40 or so active members from across the county. Lancaster is a
diverse progressive city surrounded by rural conservative
neighborhoods including large Mennonite and Amish communities.
Salim, 15, spends about five hours a
day on electoral work including phone banking in Spanish for Mike
Siegel, a Democrat running for Texas’ 10th Congressional
District, mailing postcards encouraging youngsters to vote in swing
states, and organizing a forthcoming Wide Awake action.
“The Green New Deal is worth
fighting for, it’s important for the world and our country. I
like coming together with my community and other high schools,
it’s important but also fun,” Salim said.
Salim cannot vote, but more than 15
million Americans have turned 18 since the last general election,
and the majority appear to want Trump out of the White House.
Biden holds a 33-point lead over
Trump among 18- to 29-year-olds who plan to vote, according to a
Institute of Politics poll last month.
While less than a third of young
Biden voters said they were very enthusiastic about casting a
ballot for the 77-year-old former vice president, voter turnout
among the under-30s could be key: Sixty-three percent of
respondents said they will “definitely be voting,” compared to
just 47 percent in the same poll four years ago.
Troy Turner, 29, Sunrise’s
electoral coordinator for Pennsylvania, said: “Biden is super
unappealing to young people, he represents the old guard of
politics favoring style over substance. Young people are policy
voters, but we have to vote for Biden as he represents potential
for a livable future. Trump represents the apocalypse.”
The movement’s endorsements for Congress include Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez; Qasim Rashid, a Muslim anti-violence advocate and
environmental justice campaigner; and Marquita Bradshaw in
But they are mostly supporting local
candidates like the anti-fracking advocate Danielle Friel Otten in Chester
County, who is up for reelection to the state house.
DiNardo, who is holed up with a
handful of colleagues from the Down Ballot Disruption
project in a rented house in North Carolina, coaches juniors
and seniors on how to do banner drops, town halls, and phone
banking to help turn out voters for endorsed candidates in 33
“A lot of these down-ballot races
can be decided by just hundreds of votes and most people don’t
pay attention, but we can’t win a Green New Deal without these
candidates. A lot of young people don’t love Biden, but it’s
not just about the presidency,” she said.
Voter turnout is crucial, but it may
not be enough. Trump and his allies have refused to commit to a
peaceful transition of power while making wild, unsubstantiated
claims about widespread voter fraud.
Abby Leedy, 19, a full-time
organizer from Philadelphia, is training young hub leaders on how
to mobilize large numbers of protesters in case Trump tries to
steal the election.
“We need to to be ready if Trump
tries to pull off a coup by mobilizing his supporters, especially
white supremacist groups, to come to places like Philadelphia and
do God-knows-what. We’re preparing people, but if his supporters
start shooting or drive into the crowd there could be a massacre.
This keeps me awake at night, but we really don’t have any
This story was originally published by Grist with the headline
‘We don’t have any choice’: The young climate activists
naming and shaming politicians on Oct 17, 2020.
Source: FS – All – Ecology – News 2
‘We don’t have any choice’: The young climate activists
naming and shaming politicians