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Environmental Groups and Labor Merge for Climate Rally in Lafayette Park

April 24, 2022 by Kate Michael
Participants at Climate Rally in Washington, D.C. April 23, 2022. (Photo by Kate Michael)

WASHINGTON — Taina Lipwak came with elaborate canvas artwork that she attached to the fence around Lafayette’s statue. She wanted the crowd to see it, but she hoped President Biden might see it too. 

“This is the center of government in the United States,” she told The Well News. “The president is right there; the Congress is down the street. We need to be here to say… something has to change.”

Lipwak and hundreds of the others gathered in Lafayette Square across from the White House on Saturday afternoon to attend a concert and climate rally organized by the Sierra Club. 

Similar rallies were taking place across the country. 

“You know thousands of people are mobilizing in cities across the country today. And we are energized, we are determined, and we will succeed,” Ramón Cruz, Sierra Club president said from the stage. 

“Biden and Congress cannot wait any longer. They have a once in a generation chance to meaningfully tackle the climate crisis, raising prices, energy insecurity, and injustice… Who’s ready to tell Biden and Congress to get the job done?”

The growing crowd, which rallied into the late afternoon, demanded bold action on climate, jobs, and justice. 

“It’s important to me to be here today because the planet is on fire,” Lipwak said. “Humans are basically destroying the ecosystem to the point where it’s not going to be sustainable for human populations to be living. Sea levels are rising… and I’m adamant.”

But while environmental groups appeared to make up a large part of the rally’s attendance, speakers largely came from the labor movement, with leadership from the AFL-CIO and Service Employees International among the first to speak to the assembly. 

“It’s not just a climate issue, it’s a labor issue, too, and we’ve always known that,” Gerry Hudson, secretary-treasurer of SEIU said.

“Labor issues and climate issues are two sides of the same coin,” Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO agreed. “We have to do more than react and rebuild. We have to get ahead of the crisis… So let’s build a future where labor and environmental standards go hand in hand.”

She then called on Congress to pass the building a better America agenda “with investments in clean energy made in America.”

For Lipwak, who has practiced what she called “civil disobedience” through weekly protests centered around climate action, the main concern is money that’s funding the carbon extraction industry. 

“The corporate money is big,” she said. “We need people acting and people coming together and deciding it’s not good enough to wreck the planet for.  We’ve already wrecked it a lot, but it’s only going to get worse.”

Kate can be reached at kate@thewellnews.com

 

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