by Jordyn Haime, Staff Writer  

A University of New Hampshire student was one of 51 activists arrested for unlawfully demonstrating outside Senate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, United States Capitol Police said.  

Over 200 youth protesters, joined by Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) gathered at Pelosi’s office to urge Democrats to act more progressively on issues of climate change, according to a report from Politico. 

The student, senior social work and women’s studies major Emma Chinman, said she was invited to participate by the New Hampshire Youth Movement (NHYM), a progressive student organization that works to hold politicians accountable and represent youth political values. NHYM brought 13 people to the event, but only she and one other – Katie Carbonara, a member of NHYM from Keene, N.H. – were arrested.  

Emma Chinman

Chinman, right, alongside other NHYM activists before they entered Pelosi’s office. The envelopes hold notes to democrats urging them to act more progressively on climate change. Photo courtesy of Emma Chinman

“We had decided beforehand that we were gonna be arrested, we decided that climate change was important enough and we wanted to show people how much we cared,” Chinman, who is also an associate chaplain at the Waysmeet Center in Durham, said in a phone interview from D.C. on Wednesday.  

Pelosi released a statement on Tuesday, stating that “we welcome the presence of these activists, and we strongly urge the Capitol Police to allow them to continue to organize and participate in our democracy.”    

The protest was organized by the Sunrise Movement, an organization similar to NHYM with the goal of making climate change a priority across the United States.  

The activists tried to urge Pelosi – projected to become the next Speaker of the House in January following the 2018 midterm elections – to support the “Green New Deal,” a stimulus package that would address the growing climate crisis through the creation of a clean-energy economy. They also urged Democrats to reject campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies.  

Abby Colby

Abby Colby, another NHYM member, with her letter to democrats. Photo courtesy of Griffin Sinclair-Wingate.

Last month, a climate report released by the United Nations indicated high risk of a climate crisis that could have irreversible effects – such as worsening food shortages and wildfires – as early as 2040.  

“The New Hampshire Youth Movement understands the urgency and the crisis of climate change and knows that we need a national action for us to meet the 12-year mark to stop climate change,” Dylan Carney, the state director of NHYM, said.    

“We wanted to make sure that one week after the election, democrats are being held accountable for renewable energy,” Chinman said.  

Chinman said the Sunrise Movement held trainings before the protest and divided the activists into teams: one that would participate in the peaceful protest, and one group of around 50 who were planning to remain in the building after police ordered them to leave so that they would be arrested.  

Chinman originally planned to go home with NHYM after the protest, but after being inspired by a speech given by Ocasio-Cortez, she decided to stay.  

“After hearing her speak and just knowing how important this movement was, but also knowing what to do in a high-risk protest with an arrest component, I knew I wanted to have that knowledge and bring that back to New Hampshire,” Chinman said.

 

Ocasio-Cortez spoke at the sit-in in Pelosi’s office after activists left letters detailing their concerns about climate change on her desk. Ocasio-Cortez reportedly left before police began issuing warnings and eventually arresting the 51 remaining activists.   

Chinman told The New Hampshire she was held for nearly six hours before being released on $50 bail. She returned to the Granite State with a group of fellow activists on Wednesday.  

A GoFundMe campaign was launched on Tuesday to raise money for the activists’ bail costs with an original goal of $2,550. The goal has since been raised to $8,000 because, according to Nicole Catania, the founder of the GoFundMe campaign and a member of the Sunrise Movement, it would “support the young people who were arrested with bail, as well as support their housing and food while they were in Washington D.C. for the night.” As of Wednesday evening, over $5,100 has been raised. 

Jordyn Haime can be contacted at jlh1036@wildcats.unh.edu or on Twitter at @JordynHaime.