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After six weeks of marching 400 miles from New Orleans to Texas amid fruitless federal infrastructure negotiations, Sunrise Movement activists concluded their march on Monday with arrests outside the Houston home of renowned Republican climate villain Sen. Ted Cruz.
Eight demonstrators with the movement’s “Generation on Fire” campaign were arrested on the Texas Republican’s lawn while delivering a message to President Joe Biden.
“We protested outside of Ted Cruz’s house to clearly lay out the choice Biden was making. We need Biden to work for us, not Cruz, the insurrectionist climate denier,” Roshni Khosla, one of the Gulf South marchers, told Common Dreams.
Biden has many progressive lawmakers and activists concerned he may endorse a bipartisan infrastructure package that has been watered down from the White House’s initial two-part proposal—which Sunrise and various experts already dubbed inadequate.
“We are a bit worried, but we know that we can make Biden bend,” Khosla said. “Our powerful California march just ended last week. Our Gulf South march ended today. Our Philadelphia march is ending next Monday.”
Noting plans for a rally in Washington, D.C. next week to pressure the president to support the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) for Jobs and Justice Act, she added that “we are far more powerful than the insurrectionist climate deniers Biden is choosing to negotiate with over us, Gulf South Youth marchers.”
Sunrise campaigners on Monday held signs that said, “Our Homes Flood, Our People Freeze, Cruz Abandons Us”—referencing when Cruz vacationed in Mexico while Texans endured power outages earlier this year—as well as “Pass a Bold Civilian Climate Corps” and “Which Side Are You On, Biden?”
Critics of Cruz’s trip to Cancún and Texas’ decision to create its own power grid to buck federal regulations, including Sunrise, used the state’s February crises to make a case for the Green New Deal, a resolution that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) reintroduced in April.
That same day, the lawmakers also unveiled the CCC legislation. As Markey explained in the Boston Globe, they envision “a new, modern, equitable climate corps that puts Americans to work reducing carbon emissions, building our clean energy backbone, implementing conservation projects, and creating healthier and more resilient communities means we will build back better and we will build back greener.”
Passing a bill to establish the New Deal era-inspired CCC—which supporters say would create 1.5 million jobs—is a key demand of the Sunrise marchers, along with their call for Biden to “stop negotiating with moderates and the GOP on climate jobs legislation and fight for what the people need.”
“Biden, I voted for you because I thought I was securing my future, but every day since inauguration I’ve woken up with the same fears,” said 19-year-old marcher Ishan Gupta in a statement.
“Your decision to work with the same people who won’t upgrade Texas’ power network to save us from blackouts this summer is a slap in the face,” Gupta added. “Deliver on your promises so I can have a future doing meaningful work like fixing our power grid.”
The “Generation on Fire” youth are further calling on Biden to block Formosa Plastics Group from constructing a large petrochemical complex in an area of Louisiana called “Cancer Alley.” The site of the proposed complex in St. James Parish was a stop on the 400-mile march.
“This specific route was chosen because it is the path of many climate refugees who are escaping damage from hurricanes in New Orleans,” Khosla told Common Dreams. “Our 17-year-old marcher Chanté Davis’ family made that move after Katrina.”
After Davis’ family fled to Houston, the Texas city was hit by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, before enduring power outages along with food and water shortages due to winter weather and infrastructure issues earlier this year.
“I am only 17 years old, and I have lived through the kind of climate disasters that I know are not going to stop,” Davis wrote for Teen Vogue this month. “I often wonder what the next 17 years will bring. Who’s going to help us? Will I have to relocate again?”
According to Davis:
We’re angry that Biden and Congress have not done more to combat the imminent threat of climate change. We are angry that we are being neglected at a time when many of us are under- or unemployed. We are marching because right now, we have an economy that places profits over the well-being of Black and brown communities. We are marching through the sweltering summer heat because we need good jobs and real solutions to save our planet. We are rising up like the individual flames of a generation on fire.
Along with the march, Sunrise has recently held actions outside the White House and the San Francisco home of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The rally in the nation’s capital is scheduled for June 28.
“We want everyone feeling empowered by our action to join us in D.C. on the 28th,” said Khosla, “or take action wherever you are! We don’t have time to sit around.”