By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — About 10 activists from Sunrise Movement-Ann Arbor peacefully stood outside the building where U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell’s (D-Dearborn) Dearborn office is located Nov. 26 asking her to sign the Green New Deal.
The group, made up of high school and college students from Dingell’s district, were met by Dearborn police officers denying them access to the office, 19855 W. Outer Drive.
About 15 protesters sat-in for 24 hours at Dingell’s Ypsilanti office Nov. 22 where three were arrested after they refused to leave. When the group attempted another sit-in on Nov. 25 they found the Ypsilanti office closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.
One of the arrested protesters was Allie Lindstrom who said she started the Ann Arbor chapter with hope of what the Green New Deal could mean for southeast Michigan.
“We set up a meeting with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell because we thought she would want to champion this issue because it could do so much for constituents.” Lindstrom said.
“She has been a champion in the past for the environment, so we’re honestly confused. This should be an easy ‘yes’ for her. This shouldn’t be such a big deal that she has police blocking young people from talking to her staff. We are non-violent, always. We just want a livable future.”
Maggie Rousseau, Communications director for Dingell said police contacted the office when the event was posted online.
“When the event was posted on Facebook, the Dearborn police communicated to our office that protests are not allowed without proper permits, and the building manager when alerted gave us written notice that no protests are allowed inside the building,” Rousseau said in a statement. “(Dingell) was very clear with staff and Dearborn police that she respects this group working very hard on this issue. Mrs. Dingell strives to build coalitions – making friends, not enemies – to achieve goals and takes that seriously.”
Dingell was in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 26 to perform the Pro Forma sessions of Congress through the Thanksgiving holiday as part of her elected duties, Rousseau said.
“She was very clear with staff and Dearborn police that she respects this group working very hard on this issue,” Rousseau said. “Dingell strives to build coalitions – making friends, not enemies – to achieve goals and takes that seriously.”
According to the Sunrise Movement website, the Green New Deal is, “a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2030, a guaranteed living-wage job for anyone who needs one, and a just transition for both workers and frontline communities.”
Washtenaw International High School student Naina Agrawal-Hardin said the group has felt that their voices have not been heard, and that Dingell should treat the “climate crisis” with the sense of urgency the group feels is needed.
“There are communities right here in Michigan’s 12th District that are also affected by this problem, right now,” Agrawal-Hardin said. “Congresswoman Dingell’s own constituents that are having children get cancer at an alarming rates because of the pollution that we have right here in our district. We have to treat this crisis with the urgency it deserves.”
On Nov. 21, Dingell released the 100% Clean Economy Act “to set a nationwide goal of achieving a 100 percent clean energy economy by 2050, defined as net-zero climate pollution across all sectors of the United States’ economy,” according to a press release.
Also, the release said that to ensure the United States gets started soon, the act directs federal agencies to use all existing authorities to put the United States on a path toward meeting the achievable 100 percent clean economy goal while remaining technology-neutral.
Regarding the proposed act, Agrawal-Hardin said it’s a step in the right direction but it’s not enough to save the climate from the crisis people have created for themselves.
“Debbie Dingell’s recent 100% Clean Economy Act is a step in the right direction, but it is nowhere near bold enough to ensure a livable future for our generation,” Agrawal-Hardin said. “The United States, historically the largest contributor to climate change, has a responsibility to do more than the bare minimum when it comes to climate action; we will not reach global net-zero emissions by 2050 if countries like the U.S. don’t mobilize to get there faster.”
Lindstrom said it’s not enough to do the bare minimum and set 2050 as a deadline because substantial changes to the economy so the Green New Deal fights for lives, inequality and addresses the ways in which climate change is being experienced in Michigan.
“We’ve seen increased flooding, we have lots of clusters of pollution in neighborhoods that are the least able to fight it, intense storms and changing weather patterns that are making it really hard for our farmers,” she said. “It’s ludicrous to say that we are doing enough at this point and Michigan is feeling climate change and it’s only just begun. If we don’t take the action the Green New Deal requests of us right now, then we are not doing enough.”
Following statements and a Facebook live stream, the protest ended with the group singing a song about climate change.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])