At the height of the Capitol insurrection yesterday, members of the U.S. House of Representatives lay on the floor in fear for their lives. As police drew weapons at rioters banging on the barred door, lawmakers were reportedly advised to remove the pins on their lapels that identified them as House members. This was to help them avoid being identified, beaten, and possibly murdered in the very place they make laws.
Our team at CCAN today grieves with you over the horrifying and shocking events of yesterday. Our thoughts go to those injured and traumatized while defending our Capitol building from the ignorant and violent mob incited by President Trump. And we grieve with black and brown Americans who once again watched blatant white supremacy play out in Washington, DC.
We also grieve over the efforts of rioters to break more than just windows and the Capitol’s trespassing laws. They tried to break the very system of debate and lawmaking that allows social change – and social change groups like CCAN – to exist.
CCAN was founded 18 years ago on the understanding that this is a nation of laws. If you want to change this nation, we believe, you must change the nation’s laws. Historically, that applies to racial justice, health care, immigration – and certainly climate change and clean energy.
So when rioters attack the lawmakers themselves, the very fabric of social change is set ablaze. Donald Trump and his followers – who will not go away even after January 20th – yesterday achieved the logical endpoint of their four years of destruction, where not only facts and evidence are thrown out the window but lawmakers themselves are forced to throw themselves under desks out of fear for their lives.
But during this dark moment, I also think of the great strides our region and our nation have made in the last 18 years to elect new leaders who reflect a rising American electorate, one that seeks justice and inclusion. I think of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, and Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones – all three of whom care deeply about climate change and whom I’ve had the honor of personally lobbying on clean energy issues.
These are the brave leaders who will now lead us as we move past Trumpism and toward a more perfect union of greater care for human rights and climate justice.
But they cannot do it alone. We must all speak up and speak out – not just for our own issues – but for the restoration and preservation of a safe and truth-based system of lawmaking itself, where legislators and advocates, and the very system of legislative debate and change, are possible.
For these reasons, CCAN joins so many of our colleagues in the nonprofit world in utterly condemning President Trump and his despicable followers for their actions yesterday. We join in the call for the full prosecution of every person who broke laws and engaged in violent behavior.
And we ask you – our members — not to give up hope, no matter how disturbing and disheartening the images of yesterday were. Remember, we defeated Trump at the ballot box in November. And our new President – Joe Biden – appears utterly sincere in his commitment to heal our nation and our Earth.
Yet hope can be hard to come by after a day like yesterday, we know. So we ask you to consider the words of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who reminds us that hope flows from action. When you take action – on climate, race, and health care – hope flows inexorably through the action taker. More action, with more people, means more hope.
It’s a formula that’s worked for me for 18 years as founder and director of CCAN. As I type these final words, I feel more hopeful than when I started writing this message. The whole CCAN staff and I are ready to fight with you – to take action — for a safer country and climate in 2021. We will rise up from the sad ruins of the Trump era and the vandalism of January 6th.