Activists with the Sunrise Movement, an environmental advocacy group, rallied outside the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) headquarters in Washington Tuesday to demand the organization allow a presidential primary debate focused solely on climate change.
The 150 protesters pledged they would camp out at the building until the DNC allows a debate on the topic, which has emerged as one of the chief concerns for activists and presidential candidates alike.
“ is telling us we can’t have a climate debate because that’s not how it’s been done before,” Sunrise co-founder Varshini Prakash said in a press release, referring to the DNC chair.
“Business-as-usual is a death sentence for my generation and the billions of people who are already feeling the damages of the climate crisis. This is an emergency and it’s past time that Tom Perez and the Democratic party start being democratic. Their base, their candidates, and a growing number of state parties are demanding a climate debate.”
The protest comes on the eve of the first presidential primary debate, in which 20 candidates will discuss a host of issues over two nights. Sunrise activists intend to attend watch parties and “flood social media with climate questions for presidential candidates.”
The group also said it would mobilize activists to show up for the second presidential primary debate in Detroit next month.
White House hopeful Gov. (D-Wash.) has led the crusade for the DNC to host a climate change debate, which several other presidential candidates have joined. However, he said earlier this month that he was informed no such debate would take place.
“This is deeply disappointing. The DNC is silencing the voices of Democratic activists, many of our progressive partner organizations, and nearly half of the Democratic presidential field, who want to debate the existential crisis of our time. Democratic voters say that climate change is their top issue; the Democratic National Committee must listen to the grassroots of the party,” Inslee said.
An April poll found that 82 percent of registered voters who identified as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents said climate change is a “very important” top priority they’d like to see get the focus of a presidential candidate.
The DNC told The Hill earlier this month that it had emphasized the importance of climate change to media partners, it would not hold debates focused on single issues “because we want to make sure voters have the ability to hear from candidates on dozens of issues of importance to American voters.”