Members of Sunrise Movement refused to vacate House speaker’s office entrance until he pledged to avert US government shutdown
Scores of young activists with the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate organization, protested in the office of the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, on Thursday morning, demanding he avert a complete government shutdown.
Capitol police arrested 18 of the youth who blocked the office entrance and refused to vacate until McCarthy pledged to support bridge funding to keep the government open, including to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema).
“Today showed that the GOP is nothing but a group of cowards,” said Adah Crandall, an 18-year-old Sunrise Movement organizer, in an emailed statement. “They chose to arrest a bunch of teenagers instead of facing us. They would rather shut down the government than do their jobs and protect our generation.”
The activists, who traveled from across the country to attend the protest, held signs that read: “Climate action not shutdown”, “The GOP hates Gen Z” and “McCarthy: Aren’t you ashamed”.
The US has already surpassed the total number of billion-dollar disasters seen nationwide last year, national data shows. Amid a shutdown, Fema has said it could spend any leftover funds from its primary disaster fund, but when that money is depleted, officials could struggle to provide necessary aid.
The US also has two months until the end of 2023’s Atlantic hurricane season, which national forecasters have predicted will be especially harsh. A shutdown could force Fema to respond to coming hurricanes with an unpaid Washington staff.
“If everything goes perfect in a disaster, people still lose their lives, we still lose homes,” Steve Reaves, the head of AFGE Local 4060, a union representing Fema employees, told the Washington Post. “You complicate that with lack of funding, or a miscommunication, or a delay in the system anywhere, and you’re talking about more lives.”
The Sunrise Movement is also demanding no cuts to the implementation of Inflation Reduction Act programs – something Biden administration officials are concerned about – and the reinstating of the child tax credit.
“McCarthy and Republicans can either do their jobs, act on the climate crisis and fund our schools, or they can risk our economy appease a few extremists,” said Shiva Rajbhandari, 19, a Sunrise organizer who sits on the Boise, Idaho, school board, in an emailed statement. “Our generation is watching and we will hold them accountable for their actions.”