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“How is it the KKK can hold a rally in DC and be protected, but when a black man is killed, we protest in honor of him and are attacked? How can you not perceive this as an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement?”
— Kishon McDonald testifying about the U.S. Park Police Attack on Peaceful Protesters at Lafayette Square.
“The knowledge implanted within Indigenous cultures is an invaluable resource that can drive a just transition toward a sustainable economy. Alaska is on the frontlines of this climate crisis yet we are forgotten in national discussions. We ask you to follow the leadership of Indigenous Alaskans who are putting forth solutions and for the federal government to support us.”
— Alexis Rexford in her speech at the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’ roundtable following the rollout of their comprehensive climate report.
“What is a monument but a standing memory? An artifact to make tangible the truth of the past. My body and blood are a tangible truth of the South and its past. The Black people I come from were owned by the white people I come from. The white people I come from fought and died for their Lost Cause. And I ask you now, who dares to tell me to celebrate them? Who dares to ask me to accept their mounted pedestals?”
— Poet Caroline Randall Williams in a New York Times Op-ed titled “You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument.”
Politico: Raising the bar to uproot an agency
Birmingham Watch: ‘I Can’t Breathe’: Connecting the Green and Black Movements
LCV’s affiliates are hard at work protecting the environment and fighting climate change in the states. Here’s what people are reading across the country:
San Francisco Chronicle (CA): California 17-year-olds may get right to vote in primary elections
Sacramento Bee (CA): Budget ready for signing + Crack down on hospital mergers + Capitol car rally
Public News Service (CA): Groups Demand Higher Taxes on Wealthy to Address Issues of Budget Equity
Oscoda Press (MI): After more damage, Line 5 temporarily ceases operations
CLIMATE REPORT ROLLOUT: This week, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released their report on solving the climate crisis. The extensive 500 page report lays out comprehensive climate solutions for the coming years. Select Committee Chair Kathy Castor said “Our plan will put people back to work and rebuild in a way that benefits all of us. That means environmental justice and our vulnerable communities are at the center of the solutions we propose.” This is a much needed plan to help make communities healthy, provide green jobs, clean up our air and fight for racial justice and equity within the environmental movement. Communities of color are disproportionately affected by climate change but also continue to lead this work with brave efforts. Equitably tackling the climate crisis means centering solutions on racial justice.
OUR TAKE: LCV President Gene Karpinski said, “Speaker Pelosi, Chair Castor, and House Democrats have set forth a comprehensive climate action plan that centers the need to address environmental racism, create high-quality, good-paying jobs, and build a safe, healthy clean energy economy. National climate policy must confront the forces that expose Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to higher levels of toxic pollution head on and this report gives our elected officials a blueprint to do just that. In stark contrast, Trump and Republicans in Congress continue to do polluters’ bidding, deny science, ignore expert advice, dismantle environmental policies that protect communities, and put our health at further risk in the middle of a global pandemic. Pro-environment leadership in the White House and both chambers of Congress has never been more urgent.”
CVM TAKE: Alexis Aqazvick Rexford is a summer fellow with Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA), a program of the Alaska Center Education Fund, LCV’s state affiliate in Alaska. Alexis is Siberian Yupik & Iñupiaq from Gambell (Sivuqaq), Alaska. She is currently an undergraduate at Alaska Pacific University pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Public Health and is passionate about advocating for Indigenous rights and environmental justice. This week, her passion was front and center when she spoke at the roundtable discussion following the rollout on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’ comprehensive climate report. Read her full speech here!
CHISPA’S TAKE: Chispa National Director Johana Vicente said, “As we work to make our communities healthier and safer, we must also ensure justice for Black Indigenous and people of color that have borne the brunt of the current climate crisis and pollution. Equitable climate solutions that address environmental injustices and health disparities must be at the center of any federal policy. We need policies that preserve and expand family-sustaining clean energy jobs for all, advance economic and environmental justice, reduce pollution, and address the current climate crisis. By improving public health and mitigating climate risks to health infrastructure, we can begin to dismantle decades of inequalities linked to environmental injustices and health disparities.”
TRUMP PROTECTS RACIST MONUMENTS: Trump issued an executive order last Friday protecting the racist monuments, memorials and statues that are being targeted by protesters for police reform and social justice. In his statement, Trump called on federal law enforcement to prosecute people who damage these anti-Black symbols. Trump also threatened to illegally withhold funding from local governments that fail to protect the monuments, memorial and statues, and House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth isn’t having it.
OUR TAKE: LCV Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel said, “Our nation’s racist history must not be forgotten — but statues in public parks memorializing Confederate leaders and those who defended slavery, and colonizers like Columbus who gained their fame from the forced assimilation and displacement of Indigenous people, among other racist and oppressive symbols can no longer be tolerated. This executive order is especially hypocritical coming from a president who has approved the destruction of Indigenous cultural and natural heritage in places like the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument for construction of the border wall, around Chaco Canyon for oil and gas leases, and Bears Ears National Monument that was conceived by a consortium of tribes. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color have a right to feel safe and welcome in public spaces, but that can’t happen when symbols of racism and oppression are being celebrated in our parks.”
MOVING FORWARD ACT: This week the House approved a down payment on healthy, resilient, and equitable communities and a clean energy economy with a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package, the Moving Forward Act. The main goals of the bill are to boost investment in clean energy to help tackle the climate crisis, strengthen water and transportation infrastructure and make clean energy more accessible to low-income communities. The bill would provide billions of dollars towards improving transportation systems to cut emissions and building more energy efficient and sound infrastructure for public housing, hospitals, and schools. It also contains the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act, formally introduced last week, which includes tax incentives for deploying energy efficiency technology, clean energy, and electric vehicles, and supports environmental justice programs at colleges and universities.
LEAD SERVICE LINES: One of the amendments to the Moving Forward Act that was adopted will provide $22.5 billion over 5 years to fully remove and replace lead pipes that contaminate drinking water in communities across the country. The amendment, sponsored by Representatives Tlaib, Kildee, Slotkin, Moore, and Ciciline will ensure that up to 22 million people are afforded, particularly communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by lead service lines, their basic human right to clean water. For too many communities throughout the country, the racism and injustices of our country’s lead water crisis are all too familiar; even six years after the Flint water crisis, this predominantly Black community is still advocating for clean drinking water. It is beyond time to begin to dismantle this nation-wide injustice and this amendment and investment by the House is a good start.
OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Director Matthew Davis said, “This sweeping infrastructure plan is an important down payment on a healthy and safe clean energy economy that would put clean energy workers back to work now, improve water systems, protect public health, reduce pollution, build more resilient and equitable communities, and preserve nature. We commend the pro-environment-led House for the pieces of this package and some of its amendments that directly confront environmental racism that exposes Black, Indigenous, and people of color to higher levels of toxic pollution. We are especially thrilled to see two amendments that would be immediately beneficial to the health and well-being of children of color: Congresswoman Hayes’ amendment to support clean, electric school buses and Congresswoman Tlaib’s amendment to replace lead drinking water pipes. All of our children have the right to breathe clean air and drink clean water — we must transition to clean, electric school buses and get poisonous lead out of our drinking water. The Senate should move quickly to pass this bill so we can get to the important longer term work outlined in the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’ Action Plan.”
CHISPA’S TAKE: Chispa National Director Johana Vicente said, “Black, Indigenous and children of color deserve to breathe clean air, especially on their way to and from school. Dirty diesel school buses are putting the health of millions of children at risk, especially Black, Indigenous, and Latinx children who already bear the burden of environmental pollution. Congress must follow the lead of states across the country that have begun the transition to zero-emission, electric school buses. By prioritizing our children’s health, we can start to build a more just and equitable clean energy future.”
BUILDING AN ANTI-RACIST MOVEMENT: LCV’s Membership and Online Engagement team sent a message to our supporters last week, reaffirming LCV’s commitment to becoming an actively anti-racist organization. The message acknowledges our failure to fully support and work alongside Black communities and the resulting unaddressed environmental racism. Team members Liyu Woldemichael, Tiffany Hsieh, Elizabeth Jacob, Julie Jimenez, and Sammi Sluder each gave testimony to the personal work they are doing toward anti-racism and provided resources for healing, learning and supporting. For many of us, this is the beginning of our journey to center anti-racism within our work, personal lives, and communities. True action to advance climate justice requires that we lead with anti-racism and work alongside Black, Indigenous, and communities of color to advance just and equitable climate solutions. We must continue to interrogate ourselves, our identity, our privilege and our positions of power and dedicate ourselves to understanding the impact of racism on our society.
PENDING RACIST LEADERSHIP AT BLM: This week, President Trump formally nominated William Perry Pendley to lead the Bureau of Land Management. On various occasions, Pendly has expressed wildly racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments, including authoring a 2017 op-ed attacking the validity of the Black Lives Matter movement, saying it was based on “a lie that spread like cancer through inner cities endangering men and women in blue and the citizens who look to them for protection.” As our country reckons with the structural racism that has meant that Black people have never been among those who can look to the police for protection, our country needs to prioritize the safety of Black people in all spaces — including our public lands. Pendley is simply a non-starter and has got to go.
OUR TAKE: LCV Legislative Representative Laura Forero had this to say, “Pendley’s record of listening to polluters instead of people, along with a history of making racist anti-Black, homophobic and transphobic comments shows he is completely unfit to lead staff or protect public lands. His denial of climate science, hostility toward bedrock environmental protections like the Endangered Species Act and the Antiquities Act and his eagerness to sell off public lands mean he has no place enforcing our laws meant to safeguard public lands that belong to all of us. More importantly, his ugly attacks about the Black Lives Matter movement, immigrants, and the LGBTQ+ community mean he should have no place in the Federal government and we urge the Senate to reject his confirmation. He is unfit to serve in his current role as the acting director and should be removed immediately.”
PARK POLICE HEARING: Earlier this month, Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva and Deb Haaland led a letter to the Department of the Interior requiring further information on the U.S. Park Police’s role in violent and forceful attacks aimed to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park ahead of President Trump’s photo opportunity at St. John’s Episcopal Church. On Monday, the Committee on Natural Resources held an oversight hearing titled, The U.S. Park Police Attack on Peaceful Protesters at Lafayette Square. The Committee heard testimonies from witnesses Kishon McDonald, resident of Northeast Washington DC, and Amelia Brace, U.S. Correspondent to Seven News Australia. Both McDonald and Brace confirmed the crowd was peaceful prior to the attack, and demanded justice for the violence inflicted upon protesters by Park Police. The Park Police were part of a larger unit of force unleashing tear gas, rubber bullets, “pepper balls,” “stinger grenades,” flash grenades and smoke grenades and striking out with batons. Kishon McDonald reflected, “It hurts as a black man to see that it’s 2020 and we still have a government who would do this to us again over something that seems so right to protest about. The damage was done the minute the president decided to violate our First Amendment rights.” Mariann Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and Jonathan Turley, Professor of Public Interest Law, also testified to the abuse of power on the part of the government.
BATTLEGROUND POLL: A new poll of 37 battleground House districts conducted by Global Strategy Group (GSG) found that support for and messaging on pro-environment policies can swing competitive House races. The poll found that voters would be much more likely to back candidates who support pro-environment policies, especially forcing polluters to clean up cancer-causing toxic chemicals in our drinking water. Voters oppose candidates who deny the reality of climate change and want to cut the EPA budget while giving oil companies tax breaks. A summary memo can be found here.
OUR TAKE: LCV Victory Fund Senior Vice President of Campaigns Pete Maysmith said, “President Trump’s anti-environment friends in and running for Congress are putting the health and well-being of our communities, especially the communities of color suffering the most from toxic pollution and the coronavirus, at extreme risk. Numbers don’t lie. House candidates in every corner of the country have an opportunity to put the U.S. on a path to a healthier future by talking about their support for pro-environment policies, especially when it comes to cleaning up our polluted water and air, on the campaign trail.”
THE MISSISSIPPI FLAG (MS): As we approach the Fourth of July, it is important for us to consider what our national emblems say about the United States. Which symbols will we admit serve no other purpose but to reinforce white supremacy and need to be removed? This week we moved one step closer to ridding our spaces of these racist tributes. The Mississippi flag, dominated by the Confederate battle emblem, flew for the last time on Tuesday. This was the only state flag left in the United States with an overt Confederate symbol. A commission has been created to design a new flag that is forbidden from having the Confederate emblem in any capacity and must include the phrase “In God we trust.” As Mississippi native and executive director of Mississippi votes Arekia Bennett said, “Mississippi had some character decisions to make, and today, we did.”
July 18-26: Latinx Conservation Week
November 3: Election Day