- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2019

Climate change protesters blocked downtown D.C. streets by shackling themselves to each other, pipes — even a sailboat — during Monday’s morning rush hour to draw attention to their cause under the banner of #ShutdownDC.

“We have written our elected officials, we have voted, we have protested, we have done demonstrations, none of it has worked,” said protest spokesman Nick Brana. “The problem has only gotten worse. Elected officials and our leaders haven’t listened to us. And so this is the last morally acceptable recourse we have left.”

At the intersection of 16th and K streets NW, a global climate justice group called Extinction Rebellion parked a yellow and hot pink sailboat at about 7 a.m. It stayed there until D.C. police removed the handful of people who had attached themselves to it and towed it away at about 10 a.m.

Russell Gray, a member of Extinction Rebellion, said his group was OK with upsetting people “as long as they’re thinking about climate change.”

“We’re here to disrupt business as usual,” Mr. Gray said. “We feel that’s our only recourse.”

Meanwhile, more than 100 people helped block the normally busy intersection, singing and chanting.

“The immediate goal is to shutdown D.C., to create some hecticness in the city so that people ask why and realize it was because of the climate crisis,” said Adil Trehan, a protest spokesman. “Long-term goal, as I said, is to add momentum to the global movement behind climate action through civil disobedience.”

Protesters blocked nine other intersections Monday morning for a couple hours, said Christopher Rodriguez, director of the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

Mr. Rodriguez said city police officers were focused on a couple of things Monday: “First is making sure that the protesters peacefully can exercise their First Amendment rights, and also making sure the men and women who commute and work in the District can do so as efficiently as possible.”

Across the city, other groups including Black Lives Matter, Rising Tide North America and 350 DC, blocked intersections near the L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station, Folger Park and Columbus Circle, warranting an “all hands on deck approach” by the Metropolitan Police Department, according to police spokeswoman Kristen Metzger.

Metropolitan Police arrested 26 protesters and charged them with blocking an intersection, and U.S. Capitol Police arrested six on a charge of unlawful demonstrating.

Ms. Metzger said that the protesters did not have a permit for the demonstration, noting that city law does not require permits for protests.

Mr. Rodriguez said his office had been on “heightened alert” since Friday, when he was first made aware of the planned protests. He added that people can sign up for the Alert D.C. notifications to get live traffic updates.

Monday’s protests followed school walkouts and demonstrations for climate change across the country on Friday.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Monday that he agrees with the protesters’ sentiment but not their methods.

“While I do not support civil disobedience to close streets during rush hour, I do commend the activism seeking to force climate change to a higher place on the government’s agenda,” said Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat. ” I agree that the consequences of global warming are a disaster we need to try to prevent.”

Irina Clark and Rachel Downs, both 11-year-old students at Capitol Hill Day School, skipped school to attend the protest at 16th and K streets NW.

“We are just here for the climate strike because the climate is more important than school because if there is no climate than there’s nothing to skip,” Irina said.

George Davidson, the last protester cut free from the boat, received a cheer and a series of high-fives from his fellow protesters.

“I’m glad to be doing this,” said Mr. Davidson, who just graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in environmental policy. “If I have kids, I want to be able to look them in the eye and tell them I did everything I could.”

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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