On Friday, hundreds filled the Wilshire Ebell Theater in the fourth stop of the Sunrise Movement’s national tour towards building support for the Green New Deal, a proposed program that addresses climate change, economic inequality, and public health.
Political and community leaders spoke on how the Green New Deal would fight the injustices plaguing Los Angeles today and improve our communities in the future, mobilizing the diverse audience towards a solution to the climate crisis.
People were pouring into the theater 30 minutes before the presentation started at 7 p.m., and members of the Sunrise Movement, along with those of the Extinction Rebellion were being interviewed by the media. By 7, the entire theater was full of students, seniors, and everyone in between watching a montage of Sunrise’s various actions, such as storming Nancy Pelosi’s office in Congress demanding support for the Green New Deal.
Packages underneath the seats labelled “We Need the Green New Deal” were filled with resources on the movement itself and the fight against climate change, while various fliers devoted to local issues like neighborhood oil drilling and environmental injustices directed at Asian and Pacific Islanders in Los Angeles were distributed. From the balconies hung a banner reading “Green New Deal,” and the stage was decorated with slogans such as “Our Time to Lead” and “For the Water We Drink.”
The first topic that was discussed was the need for multilingual spaces in events such as these, as two interpreters from Antena Los Ángeles, an organization promoting the democratization of language through their participation in bilingual and multilingual spaces, spoke jointly in Spanish and English directing audience members to get interpreting equipment if needed.
Soon after, Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement and Maro Kakoussian, co-emcee and organizer for Stand LA (a coalition seeking to end urban oil drilling) entered the theater, chanting “This is What Democracy Looks Like!” and “Green New Deal!” and talking about how much Sunrise has grown as a movement and the need to dismantle institutionalized racism to get to the root cause of climate change.
The first guest speakers were Michelle and Miguel, two indigenous representatives who performed a land acknowledgement ceremony of the Tongva people, who are native to what now makes up the Greater LA area. As they finished honoring the Earth, Michelle noted that “…it is important to remember whose land we stand upon. Pray upon it, live upon it, and fight for it.”
Various videos about environmental justice were shown afterwards, from the story of a Sunrise activist from Detroit to the fight against oil refineries and neighborhood oil drilling in Wilmington.
Robin Wilson of the United Service Workers West labor union gave her union’s endorsement of the Green New Deal while also highlighting the damaging effects of Los Angeles International airport on the low-income neighborhoods surrounding the airport in what would become the main theme of the night, and of the movement in general: the environmental injustices doled out to “frontline” communities, or marginalized and oppressed groups that suffer the most from climate change while contributing the least.
After the screening of the short film “A Message From the Future With AOC,” LA City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who serves as the chair of the Energy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice of the council spoke about how her personal experience living in and fighting for frontline communities has made her a champion of the Green New Deal in Los Angeles.
“When it comes to action and leadership, women know how to do it and get it done,” Martinez said, as she described Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s leadership in the House.
Kaniela Ing, a state representative from Hawaii criticized not only the Republicans, but those of the Democratic Party who enable climate change, offering an indigenous viewpoint on climate science and spreading a message of youthful hope and energy.
D Garcia, a formerly homeless member of Sunrise Los Angeles studying at Whittier College talked about her experience with poverty, and the power of advocating for the voices of young people. After a powerful presentation on the national efforts of the Sunrise Movement by Varshini Prakash, Grammy-nominated singer, actress, and activist Antonique Smith closed the event by singing “Here Comes the Sun” in a dedication to late rapper Nipsey Hussle.
However, it was not all over, because Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, one of the two co-authors of the Green New Deal resolution, and Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles spoke at the event as surprise guests. The slow lines of people moving out of the theater ebbed back towards the stage as Ed Markey spoke about the Green New Deal and the Mayor announced the unveiling of the Los Angeles Green New Deal on Monday.
“All of the fossil fuel interest, well, if they do that with the Green New Deal, it will be socialism,” Markey said. “And what we say is if tax breaks to the oil companies, and coal companies, and nuclear companies, and natural gas companies are socialism, then give us some of that socialism for wind, and solar, and hydroelectric power.”
At 9 p.m., most of the crowd has dispersed and was heading home, each audience member holding their guides to fighting for a Green New Deal and digesting this urgent call for mobilization around the legislation.
There was a hint of disgruntlement between various members of the audience at the appearance of Mayor Eric Garcetti, but other than that, everybody seemed eager to mobilize for the Green New Deal.
The Sunrise Movement is planning several more stops in its tour in places such as Chico, which witnessed the horrific Camp Fire last November, and New Orleans, which is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
With various actions planned for the near future, such as prioritizing climate change in the 2020 Democratic presidential debates, the real question is, as Senator Markey said at the event, “Are you ready to rise up for a Green New Deal?”