Hundreds Occupy Interior Department Demanding Phase Out of Fossil Fuels

By scott parkin

The times they are a-changin!

As Powershift—the massive youth conference, rally and permitted march—wrapped up this weekend in D.C., Rising Tide North America, Peaceful Uprising and friends from DC and all over the climate movement organized a mass unpermitted march, called Reclaim Power.

A contingent of 1000 plus climate activists took over the streets singing “We Shall Overcome” as we powerfully and peacefully walked from Lafayette Park to the Department of the Interior.

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Once we reached the Department of the Interior, previously organized affinity groups from Wyoming, Texas and Utah led hundreds to a Wisconsin-style occupation of the agency’s lobby, chanting “We are Powerful, We are Powerful!

Hundreds of climate activists of all ages sat and linked arms demanding that the Interior Department stop the greenlighting of environmentally catastrophic extraction projects—offshore drilling in the Gulf, mountaintop removal in Appalachia, tar sands mining in southern Utah and the recent giveaway of Wyoming’s public lands to the coal industry for strip mining.

via Rising Tide North America

Outside, hundreds more held the front steps and continued to rally with speakers, music and direct action. The police had difficulty even making their way through the front doors. Every time the federal police tried to intimidate the crowd, people broke out in choruses of “This Land is Our Land” and “We Shall Overcome.” After many hours, 21 people were arrested.

Rainforest Action Network and Earth First! co-founder Mike Roselle said, “This is a turning point for our movement and Rising Tide has led the way. Great work! This is the kind of non-violent direct action that is so badly needed to shake things up.”

Reclaim Power acted in solidarity with impacted regions around the country and shook up the climate movement by taking action and making change without asking permission.

In other words, we’re done asking nicely.



21 Arrested Staging Sit-in at Dept. of Interior Demanding Phase Out of Fossil Fuels

Residents from Gulf Coast, Appalachia and interior West join students and climate justice activists in calling for more action on extractive industry.

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6:40pm (EST) UPDATE: Police are reporting 21 people have been arrested, including youth and adults from across the country. Residents of Utah, Wyoming, Texas, Vermont, Georgia, Washington DC and California were among those arrested while occupying the Department of Interior offices.

Washington D.C.Over a thousand climate activists marched from Lafayette Park to the Department of the Interior’s headquarters in Washington D.C. today. Reclaim Power coincided with the end of Powershift, a mass youth climate conference, and came only 2 days before the anniversary of the BP Gulf Oil Disaster. As many as 300 protesters ran inside the headquarters in a Wisconsin-style occupation calling for the abolition of offshore oil drilling, coal mining and tar sands extraction. In an act of civil disobedience, young and old alike occupied the lobby for over an hour, smiling and singing protest songs.

The Dept. of Interior has oversight over two agencies, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and the Office of Surface Mining (OSM), which are responsible for the BP Oil Spill, mountaintop removal coal mining and tar sands oil drilling in southern Utah. Furthermore, the Dept. of Interior just opened up over 7,000 acres of land to industry for coal extraction in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

via DC Rising Tide

“Our demonstration today is to show that Wyoming might be small in population but mighty in heart,” said Kevin Uransky, a resident from Wyoming’s coalfields and member of High Country Rising Tide participating in the sit-in.  “We don’t want to just stand by and allow big corporations to destroy our homes, our way of life, and some of last open, beautiful, and undeveloped terrain left in the United States.  We want to show that Wyoming has a voice not to be drowned out by those of more represented states, we have a voice, we have an opinion, and we want to be heard.”

Reclaim Power is being led by residents of residents of the Gulf Coast, Appalachia and the interior West – regions directly impacted by heinous oil, gas and coal extractive industries. Participants are calling for the Obama Administration and the federal agency to phase out harmful mining and drilling practices and facilitate transitions to sustainable local energy systems.

“The Dept. of Interior has been allowing the killing of my community and Appalachia’s mountains by the coal industry for decades,” said Junior Walk from Boone County, West Virginia. “King Coal has poisoned Appalachia with toxic water, toxic air and toxic waste. It’s time for real action, not merely political posturing. I commend these fiery activists taking risks and making change for our communities and the climate.”

“For all practical purposes, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast function as a third world resource colony within the US.  For a hundred years, our people and ecosystems have been sacrificed to provide cheap energy and big profits,” said Devin Martin, a native Cajun from southern Louisiana.  “We pay for the hidden costs of oil and gas with our health and our lives through air pollution, oil spills, and a completely corrupted state government.  We already lose a football field of coastal marsh every 38 minutes, and now rising sea levels from climate change will put my home, including New Orleans, under water permanently.”

Reclaim Power also seeks to highlight the ruthless manner in which extractive industries are allowed to treat workers and the communities they operate in. Obama’s Dept. of Interior allows the fossil fuel industry to run amok over ecosystems, communities, workers and local economies. Last year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster killed 11 workers and spilled over 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The results have devastated local economies, fisheries and wetlands. Mountaintop removal is a radical form of coal mining in which up to 800 feet, sometimes more, of densely forested mountaintops are literally blown up to reach thin coal seams. Already, over 500 mountains and 2,000 miles of streams have been lost due to this devastating mining practice. It has been recently discovered that oil companies in southern Utah greatly expanded the acres of land to be developed for tar sands extraction from 60 to over 30,000. The 758 million tons of coal to be extracted from the four competitive leases in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin will be the equivalent of 300 new coal-fired power plants.

Today’s march and sit-in are a preview to Rising Tide North America’s “Day of Action Against Extraction” happening April 20th, on the anniversary of the BP Oil Spill. The day of action will feature protests by Gulf Coast residents fighting offshore drilling, Appalachians resisting mountaintop removal coal mining, Texas, Pennsylvania and New York residents opposing natural gas hydrofracking, Canadians fighting tar sands mining in Alberta, as well as other community groups engaged in fights against extractive industries. Protests are also planned for the UK, New Zealand, and Australia.

Demands from today’s Reclaim Power action and the April 20th Day of Action Against Extraction include:

  • An immediate phase out of fossil fuel extraction and a just transition to truly sustainable forms of energy
  • Community control over natural resources
  • Recognizing the sovereignty of indigenous nations and their right to control resources on their lands.
  • Reparations from both state and corporate entities that have profited from extraction in order to fund ecological restoration, full health coverage, and sustainable livelihoods in impacted communities.

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Rising Tide North America is an all volunteer climate justice network with over 50 chapters and local contacts that works to confront the root causes of climate change.