Climate & Social Justice

Climate Activists Protest DNC Chairman at Brown University


College students protest outside Brown University during a Nov. 19 visit to campus by Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

PROVIDENCE — Students from Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design aim to change the traditional corporate-funded and corporate-friendly Democrats who control House leadership and replace them with with leaders who will take radical action on issues such as climate change by adopting the New Green Deal.

Students from the climate activist group Sunrise RI recently protested a visit by Brown University graduate and chair of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez, who was speaking at the university’s Watson Institute on Thayer Street. They called for Perez to reverse his about-face on a rule prohibiting Democratic politicians from taking donations from fossil-fuel companies.

“The politics of climate change are shifting,” said Lauren Maunus, a Brown University student and organizer for Sunrise RI.

She said the change includes a zero-patience policy for failure to advance the Green New Deal, universal health care, and economic equality.

“I’m doing my part,” said Wassa Bagayoko, a Brown University sophomore. “Tom Perez and Democratic leadership, it’s time for you to do your job, or step aside and let other people lead.”

Bagayoko spoke of desertification and drought in her parents’ homeland of Mali. During the 90-minute protest on Nov. 19, about 75 students chanted, sang, and offered accounts of climate injustice. Some 30 students disrupted Perez’s speech and marched out of the auditorium to join the protest at the entrance to the Watson Institute.

The rally was part of a week of organized protest by climate activists. Some 350 actions across the country were organized to deliver letters to members of Congress, asking for their support for a new select committee to advance the Green New Deal, as outlined by popular Representative-elect Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. The plan calls for a 10-year transition to 100 percent renewable energy nationwide.

In Rhode island, Sunrise RI activists delivered a letter to Rep. David Cicilline’s office in Pawtucket, asking that he sign a pledge to not accept corporate donations. Cicilline said in July he wouldn’t accept donations from corporate political action committees.

Cicilline is a vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and will have more influence shaping policy once Democrats assume House control in January. He is running for chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

“So it is only acceptable that he actually be a progressive Democrat,” Maunus said. “So we are fighting through all avenues to make sure that Democratic leaders take this crisis as seriously as we take it.”

“Tom Perez, Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leaders, right now you have the power to ensure a healthy, clean, equitable, and livable future for our generation and for generations to come,” Brown University student Galen Winsor said. “I’m here today because I say enough is enough. We refuse to let fossil-fuel money dictate our politics, turning our leaders into puppets of corporate interest.”

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  1. One of the photographs accompanying this article shows a young, idealistic protester holding a sign, "Green Jobs for All."

    Let that sink in a bit. How many ‘green’ jobs do we really expect? All the manufacturing for green items is taking place overseas. And only so many people are needed to maintain solar panels or wind generators once they are installed.

    Idealism reigns. Reality bites.

  2. To Rick Rigazio, clean power already provides more jobs in the USA than the fossil fuel industries, which are rapidly shrinking.

  3. its an example of well intentioned youthful idealism but I agree with Rick’s observation, and there is a lot else wrong with this.
    First, Perez and the Democrats do not have the power to ensure a "healthy clean" future with the Senate, Presidency, EPA, and increasingly the courts in the hands of truly pro-fossil fuel Republicans. And one of the reasons the GOP has so much power is that so many, even in the progressive community, threw away their vote in November 2016 by not voting or wasting their votes for silly Jill Stein or other fringe candidates.
    Second, disrupting a speech by the respected former Sec of Labor is disrespectful not only to the speaker but to the people that wanted to hear him, a tactic that is always counterproductive even if it gives a useless feel-good moment.
    Not taking fossil fuel money is also just a feel-good slogan that doesn’t save a barrel of oil and would just give the Republicans even more of an advantage. Its how they vote that counts.
    100% renewabe power in 10 years is not even a feel-good issue, it is plain ridiculous, just look around at all the cars, buidings using oil or gaa to stay warm, even up in the sky at all the airplanes, most of all that will still be here in 10 years. Even renewables are no panacea, they have impacts as seen on ecori including conversion of forests to industrial solar "farms" or transmission lines for hydro, siting issues for wind including interfering with fishing as reported in this ecori issue, plus impacts in manufacture, maintenance, disposal etc
    I wish the youthful enthusiasm could be directed to constructive actions that actually reduce energy use, especially from fossil fuels, as well as protecting forests and nature generally.

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