NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - About 50 protestors occupied Rep. Frank Pallone's office on Church Street Friday as part of Global Strike Day, calling on the congressman to wield his power as the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to push for a fossil-fuel-free future.
James Boyle of the Central Jersey Climate Coalition - an alliance of students, faculty, civic organization and community members who are calling for a set of environmental and economic measures known as the New Green Deal and championed by, among others, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - read an open letter to Pallone once inside his office.
"As the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, you hold immense power in setting the legislative agenda on climate," Boyle said. "The Green New Deal, the kind of bold legislation that is needed that is needed to prepare us for a rapidly changing climate is being stalled in part by your committee's refusal to hold hearings on the resolution."
Pallone favors a zero-emissions deadline of 2050, but scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are calling for that to be enacted by 2030 to keep temperatures around the planet from rising to the dangerous levels.
Boyle took almost seven minutes to read his letter while a handful of Pallone staffers stood by. His voice raised with anger when one of the staffers walked to the back of the room.
"Don't turn your back on me while I'm speaking," Boyle said.
When he was done, other protestors spoke out, urging Pallone to use his place as the committee chairman to enact immediate changes.
Soon, the office emptied without incident.
Mary Werden, a spokesperson for Pallone, told TAPinto New Brunswick that since Congress was in session, Pallone was in Washington, D.C. to vote. In the morning, he was scheduled to hold a hearing on reducing greenhouse gas pollution from the U.S. building sector.
“I stand with these activists, and could not agree more that climate change is a crisis that demands our immediate action," Pallone said in a statement provided to TAPinto New Brunswick. "I’ve heard their calls to unite behind the science and let the science dictate how we proceed. They’re right. That’s why in July, I announced a plan to develop bold, comprehensive legislation to decarbonize our entire economy and achieve net-zero greenhouse gas pollution no later than 2050. It’s likely we can decarbonize certain sectors, like power, even faster – a goal we share. But the global scientific consensus makes clear that all sectors – our entire country – must be carbon neutral by 2050.”
Global Strike Day was a clarion call for students and others to take to the streets and demand a cleaner environment. The scene at Rutgers' Voorhees Mall on Friday afternoon was repeated in cities across the United States and the world.
By about 2:30 p.m., some 500 people had gathered on the Rutgers campus. They brandished signs with slogans such as "There is No Planet B" and "100 Percent Renewable Energy Now."
There were speakers using bullhorns and bands playing protest music and chants such as "Divest! Divest! Put fossil fuels to rest!"
Although they often singled out Pallone for not doing more for the environment, Rutgers President Robert Barchi was also mentioned. For many who spoke at the rally at Voorhees Hall, it was simply a chance to decry
The chants got louder and the numbers seemed to swell as the protestors made their way through New Brunswick. Traffic was halted in several streets as the protestors snaked along their route.
Once at Pallone's offices at 67/69 Church St., the merged with a group of protestors who had walked over from Highland Park.
In all, there were about 1,500 protestors.