At about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, 12 people traveled to U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell’s Dearborn office to continue protests to urge Dingell to sign the Green New Deal. They were met with police blocking them from entering the building.
After occupying U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell’s, D-Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti office for nearly 24 hours this past weekend, Sunrise Movement Ann Arbor activists continue to attempt sit-ins as they urge Dingell to sign the Green New Deal. About 15 protesters hoping to stage another sit-in showed up to her office in Ypsilanti, Monday afternoon to find it closed for the week.
Sunrise Movement Ann Arbor has been pressuring Dingell to sponsor the Green New Deal — legislation fighting climate change and economic inequality — since February. Dingell has not been present at any of the previous sit-ins staged by the group in April, September, or this past week, when three activists were arrested after refusing to leave her office. After finding Dingell’s Ypsilanti office closed on Monday, the group posted a Facebook event advertising their plans to stage an “office takeover” at Dingell’s Dearborn office.
Although Sunrise activists were not allowed to enter the building, they stood outside, sang and recorded statements urging Dingell to respond to their repeated attempts to convince her to sign the Green New Deal. Naina Agrawal-Hardin, Sunrise hub coordinator and Washtenaw International High School student, referenced the UN’s most recent Emissions Gap Report, which compares projected greenhouse gas emissions for 2030 to the goals of the Paris Agreement.
“We have to treat this crisis with the urgency it deserves,” Agrawal-Hardin said. “Just today, the United Nations released a new report stating that if we don’t seriously get our act together, then it’s over for us.”
Allie Lindstrom, Sunrise activist and Washington University in St. Louis senior, urged for action beyond the 100% Clean Economy Act Dingell introduced on Friday, which sets 2050 as a goal for an economy which produces net zero pollution.
“It’s not enough just to do the bare minimum and to set 2050 as a deadline,” Lindstrom said. “We have to make substantive changes to our economy so that it fights for our lives, and it fights inequality, and it addresses the ways in which we are experiencing climate change here in Michigan.”
Maggie Rousseau, Dingell’s deputy chief of staff and communications director, gave a statement regarding the police presence on Tuesday.
“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,” the statement said. “Dingell and her staff strive to be good tenants in the space we lease to continue serving the people of the 12th Congressional District with critical services such as help with Veterans and Social Security benefits.”
The statement also included an explanation of Dingell’s absence.
“Dingell returned to Washington, DC Tuesday to perform the Pro Forma sessions of Congress over the Thanksgiving holiday – a part of her elected duties as a Member of Congress,” the statement continued. “She was very clear with staff and Dearborn police that she respects this group working very hard on this issue. Dingell strives to build coalitions – making friends, not enemies – to achieve goals and takes that seriously.”
Agrawal-Hardin expressed her dissatisfaction with what she sees as Dingell’s continued lack of direct response to those promoting the Green New Deal.
“A lot of my friends and my parent’s friends are quick to remind me — knowing that we’re running this campaign trying to get Congresswoman Dingell to cosponsor the Green New Deal — that she is a really fantastic representative and a really fantastic advocate and to be honest, I think that’s true,” Agrawal-Hardin said. “But that’s not been the way that she’s treated us young constituents who have peacefully protested her inaction on climate change … She hasn’t made us feel like she wants to hear what we have to say.”
Lindstrom said she feels she needs to continue demonstrating to make change.
“I don’t think she seriously started considering things until we started popping up everywhere,” Lindstrom said. “I think it takes flooding the office with constituent calls, and occasionally with people, to get her attention. But her constituents should always matter, and her constituents shouldn’t have to organize like this for her to take our lives seriously.”