Montgomery County, VA — Yesterday morning, Pipeline fighter River scaled a critical piece of welding machinery at a Mountain Valley Pipeline work site in Montgomery County, VA, preventing work at the site from proceeding further along the pipe.
River stated: “It is a common misconception that we all contribute to and suffer from environmental damage equally. It is large corporations like EQT that are destroying our homes while their CEOs look on from their penthouses. This is why ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ is not enough. We will never be able to recycle enough empty milk jugs to make up for the hundreds of miles of forests and farmlands that the MVP has devastated in its wake.“
The banner hanging on site reads “LOVE THE LAND: SOLIDARITY WITH MAUNA KEA,” in reference to the ongoing blockade by Native Hawaiians of a sacred site in Hawai’i that is threatened by the construction of a massive telescope. The blockade, which is in 18th day of preventing construction, is not just about a telescope — it is about the ongoing desecration and exploitation of Native culture and rights.
In support of River’s action, a banner was hung above nearby Interstate 81 at exit 128, reading: “DEFEND WHAT YOU LOVE, STOP MVP, RESISTANCE = SURVIVAL.”
After seven and a half hours, River was extracted and arrested. They prevented welding from progressing along the pipe at a Mountain Valley Pipeline work site for that time. They were arraigned, and held without bail on misdemeanor charges.
UPDATE | 1:30 AM : Eight activists were charged with resisting arrest due to not being able to rip their hands free from the doors and doorframe, instead requiring an acetone solution to dissolve the glue. They are being held overnight and will be seen in court tomorrow July 24th:
H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001
UPDATE | 11:30PM : U.S. Capitol Police confirm 17 arrests from the Rayburn and Cannon House office buildings. For over two hours, climate activists glued themselves to the House Office buildings, blocking passage to the US Capitol before a vote in the House Chamber in order to demand that Congress declare a climate emergency. All 17 were charged with “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding”; 15 of the 17 were charged with defacing public property, and eight were charged with resisting arrest.
UPDATE | 10:30 PM Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez thanked the activists for the action outside the building as they were being put in the police wagon. According to one demonstrator, Rashida Tlaib said to her that the blockade was more important than her job. Other members of Congress, including Maxine Waters and Elisha Cummings, celebrated the action in the House Office building as it was going on.
UPDATE | 7:00 PM The police have blockaded the Cannon rotunda, designating it a crime scene so that bystanders and support could be moved out of sight of those glued to the doors and doorways.
Washington, D.C., July 23 – Following the weekend’s “heat emergency” and a slew of flash floods in D.C., the climate group Extinction Rebellion (XR) brought business-as-usual to a halt in Congress Tuesday with an unprecedented act of mass civil disobedience. Activists used superglue to physically attach themselves to key passages in the House Office buildings, blocking members of Congress just before a vote in the Capitol building.
The climate activists demanded the speedy passage of the climate emergency resolution, which is currently sitting idle in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
One demonstrator, Wesley Boccardo, explained, “I’m a farmer and I’m here because I want to have places to farm.”
Stephen Leus, who chose to superglue his hand to one of the entrances to the underground tunnel to the Capitol building, said of his decision that “it would be crucially irresponsible for us to not act in the limited amount of time we have.”
The U.S. Congress is not treating the climate emergency legislation with the urgency it deserves. The existential threat that climate change poses to our economy and to the health of all Americans should make this resolution Congress’ top priority. Extinction Rebellion activists are calling on both chambers to recognize the truth of the emergency we are in and to pass the resolution as a first step to acknowledging the severity of the crisis.
On July 9, the concurrent resolution for the U.S. to declare a climate emergency at the federal level was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) with six co-sponsors in the Senate and 49 co-sponsors in the House. The resolution would need 51 Senate and 218 House votes to pass through Congress.
Earlier this summer, New York City declared a climate emergency, the largest city in the U.S. to do so. The city council cited the direct action coordinated by XR NYC as a driving force behind the declaration. With increasingly dire predictions about the effects of climate change, the DC chapter of XR is taking action to demand the same at the federal level.
The U.K. Parliament has also declared a climate emergency due to mass civil disobedience actions by Extinction Rebellion (XR). In April 2019, XR activists in the U.K. successfully brought London to a standstill by gathering thousands of people for an 11-day blockade. In only a year, the movement has spread to include hundreds of thousands of people around the world in part because Extinction Rebellion communicates the grave seriousness of the climate emergency we face and asks people to act accordingly. It’s working.
The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of XR also held a simultaneous protest in coordination with the D.C. chapter today. Climate advocates gathered at noon PST at the steps of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in downtown San Francisco for a symbolic Die-In. Those entering the building had to step over the bodies of the climate victims.
Extinction Rebellion US is one of 45 countries that form Extinction Rebellion International. XR US has four demands. They include net zero carbon emissions by 2025 and the creation of a Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the bold and swift changes that our fossil fuel-corrupted government has been unable to make.
More action against the Mountain Valley Pipeline this week.
On Monday, 10 water protectors blocked the entrance to a Mountain Valley Pipeline work site in Montgomery County, VA! They prevented MVP from accessing the site for over 2 hours.
And then today [Thursday], a pipeline fighter locked down and blocked construction across the road from the Yellow Finch blockade! After days of MVP drawing nearer, work can now be seen from the tree sitters perch in the branches of the Oak and White Pine. In response Violet has locked herself onto the easement in order to stop MVP from progressing forward.
“Without a doubt, the Mountain Valley Pipeline needs to be stopped. It will destroy a precious environment that provides vivid life to the countless plants, animals, and communities that call this region home. The most shameful things have been done to this land and to the people who have lived here. It is destruction in the name of exploitation and profit. We’ve already lost so much life on our planet, and what is left cannot sustain this any longer.
I’ve continued to find hope among the communities of resistance in this region. Mirroring the dynamic natural relationships that make these forests and mountains so beautiful, courageous people of Appalachia and beyond have shown resilience that is capable of combatting the pipeline’s threat. By struggling together, we have created ways of loving and of fighting everything that projects such as the MVP stand for.
This is no time for neutrality. Our tree sits are still up, and the Mountain Valley Pipeline has fallen behind schedule. It will continue to do so.”
Let’s face it: Single-issue advocacy that directly pressures government and business won’t solve today’s crises on its own. It also won’t create the deep relationships and power we need to achieve multi-level, community-based, systemic change.
Sure, there are small (sometimes compromised) gains in the short term when organizations and groups muster enough strength, resources, and staff to pummel their opponent, but we’re losing the war. Wins are often rolled back when we can’t keep up the pressure or critical mass with finite resources. Too often, non-profits replicate the same systems of oppression they’re trying to dismantle in the first place. **Burnout is real**
More deep and lasting cultural change can happen if non-profits build real relationships with supporters*. By talking with more people, organizations can share resources that draw more people into leadership roles, expand internal and external capacity, and consensually support infrastructure on the ground to leverage power and create change.
It’s time to start doing better, deeper digital work to build real relationships with supporters — relationships that transform communities, grow and develop skills, support the grassroots, and expand movement infrastructure — you know, the things that we know create lasting change.
It’s possible to talk to more people, and I’m going to ask some hard questions and delve into how it can be done throughout this blog series.
The internet (“digital” or “online advocacy”) has given us the ability to reach more people and send a message further than it ever has gone before — so, why aren’t we winning more?
Let’s ask the hard questions: Are we using online platforms strategically to build relationships and power with the resources we have? Are for-profit platforms fundamentally changing the way we connect with people for the worse? Is it unethical to consistently grow your email list without the staffing, resources, and know-how to actually organize it? Is it even possible to cut through a crowded online space and make an impact on the ground?
More importantly, is online advocacy even organizing anyone? What would our movements look like if we focused a little more on personal connections instead of on getting signatures on a petition or on other, temporary, performative “wins” that push for an urgent and temporary critical mass?
“We have lived through a good half century of individualistic linear organizing (led by charismatic individuals or budget-building institutions), which intends to reform or revolutionize society, but falls back into modeling the oppressive tendencies against which we claim to be pushing. Many align with the capitalist belief that constant growth and critical mass is the only way to create change, even if they don’t use that language. If the goal was to increase the love, rather than winning or dominating, we could actually imagine liberation from constant oppression. We would understand that the strength of our movement is in the strength of our relationships. Scaling up would mean going deeper.” — adrienne maree brown, emergent strategy (edits made for length)
Surely with the focus on adding millions of people to popular progressive email lists — we’d have more wins under our belts. Right? RIGHT?! With so many tech tools and platforms at our fingertips, we should be talking directly to more people and bringing them into community — not less.
If you’re an organizer, activist, or change-maker, ask yourself how you got into this work. For me, it’s because someone spoke about an issue with me face-to-face. There was a personal connection. A relationship began.
We live in an exciting time. The rapidly evolving digital sector has enabled us to reach people and scale our work like never before.
The downside is that for-profit social media platforms have fundamentally transformed how we communicate, share, learn, and organize for the worse. We need to be extremely cautious about how and why we use them.
“Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others aren’t built to foster deep human connections; they’re built to maximize our time on their platforms. Social media uses notifications to trigger the release of dopamine to fool our brains into thinking we are making meaningful connections and keep us on their sites. Our brains think this is making us happy which is why we keep coming back for more but it’s actually making us miserable.” — Nicole Carty, Momentum
As the world changes, so must our resistance to it — and our resistance needs to be irresistible and strategic!
Most simply, advocacy organizations need better processes for creating online organizing strategy?— and reject for-profit tech traps that are vacant of real personal connection.
If we want to bring more people into our movements and win more, we need to get better at having more principled and personalized conversations with the right person at the right time. We need to talk with more people, more deeply.
To truly scale, we gotta go deep.
Only when we can build lasting relationships at scale will collective participation and liberation be the outcome. Building these relationships should be the focus of our engagement strategy online and offline.
I will be the first one to say that “digital” or “online organizing” isn’t a magical unicorn that will get us exactly what we need exactly when we need it. But, by constantly asking questions about our strategy like I’ve outlined throughout this blog series, I know we can get closer to multi-level, community-based system change where people and culture change come first — not the latest executive director, digital campaigner, elected official, or tech tool.
In our fast-paced culture, it’s important to make time to reflect on where we are and where we’re going. And, with billion dollar companies controlling the way we speak with each other, we need to be vigilant and intentional about what online organizing is going to look like in 5 years.
*Supporters are people who are on your email list, follow your social feeds, donate, or contribute to your group in some way.
**The scope of this series mainly focuses on non-profits with sizable email lists, not grassroots groups and frontline organizers — but there are definitely tidbits of insights for everyone. It also doesn’t go into how to support, be in coalition with, or exercise consent to grassroots or frontline communities.
Written by Vanessa Butterworth. Edited by Jay Carmona.