By Merdie Nzanga
Young climate activists carrying signs reading “Biden, you coward – fight for us” and “No climate, no deal” gathered outside the White House on Monday to protest what they called U.S. President Joe Biden’s broken promises and pandering to Republicans. “Biden ran with bold promises for action and climate and we turned out for him,” said John Paul Mejia, an 18-year-old student from Miami among hundreds at the Sunrise Movement protest, which featured Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive members of Congress.
“We did everything in our power to get him elected and we need to have some say in our future and the safety of our communities,” Mejia said.
Mejia’s disappointment is being echoed by young climate activists around the country who say Biden’s opportunity to fulfill campaign pledges is slipping away as he negotiates with Republicans.
“We have a Democratic president, we have majority both in the House and the Senate, and it should be a time in which we are able to get things done, and we really haven’t,” said Kallan Benson, a 17-year-old organizer for Fridays for Future, a global activist group.
“We have incremental gains but nothing that is really a game changer for us,” Benson said.
Asked about the climate protest Monday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that “the president is absolutely committed to addressing climate.”
Many young activists are critical of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal between Republicans and Democrats that includes half of the funding Biden originally proposed for electric vehicle technology such as charging stations, none for electric vehicle rebates, and does not require utilities to meet a clean energy standard.
The White House said Monday the bipartisan deal was just a “down payment” on Biden’s long-term climate goals.
Maintaining support from young, liberal Americans is crucial to Biden, who leaned on progressives like New York Representative Ocasio-Cortez, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and activist groups including the Sunrise Movement to unify the Democratic Party before the 2020 election.
“Sometimes folks need a little reminder of the community that took them to the dance,” Ocasio-Cortez told protesters outside the White House Monday. “We’re inviting the White House to the dance.” Ocasio-Cortez is among Democrats in Congress critical of the bipartisan deal.
More than half of Americans aged 18 to 29 voted in the 2020 general election, a Tufts University research group found, up 11 points from 2016. The group estimates 61% of them voted Democratic.