As part of four days of national protest, hundreds of climate activists and their allies rallied in front of the White House on June 8, with 50 risking arrest to condemn the Biden administration and Congress for pushing through the debt ceiling deal that fast tracked the completion of the fracked gas Mountain Valley pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia. The action occurred on a day when the air quality in the northeast U.S. was hazardous due to climate change-impacted wildfires burning in Canada, prompting many activists to say this would be a perfect day for Biden to declare a climate emergency. If completed, the 303-mile pipeline would carry gas that would pollute the region’s air and water.
Speakers at the rally included frontline people whose property and homes have already been directly affected by construction of the pipeline, which has been denied permits by state regulatory agencies that have been upheld multiple times by the Fourth Circuit Court. One element of the debt ceiling agreement pushed by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who has long-standing financial ties to the fossil fuel industry, would require any future court appeals to be heard in the D.C. circuit, where the pipeline’s builders expect more favorable treatment. A possible 75-mile extension of the pipeline into North Carolina is being considered. Southern
Detroit Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, spoke at the rally. In this segment produced by Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus, Rep. Tlaib talks about the terrible impact of industrial pollution in her own district and why she believes corporate greed is “killing us.”
[Web editor’s note: The audio version of this rally speech excerpt was edited for broadcast time constraints.]
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: I want to thank you all so much for being here (facing those risking arrest). I know you want me to face there (toward media), but your courage being out here is so important. For me, as a mother, to see D.C. schools say it’s too unsafe for children to play outside today. That’s where we’re at now, because we’re not moving with the urgency that is needed. So, thank you for being out here.
You know, the White House needs to understand this is not only a climate emergency and a climate crisis, but the fact of the matter is that corruption needs to stop. Instead of the fossil fuel industry right now inside the White House, drafting these bills, it should be the people of the United States. It should not be corporations that are full of fossil fuel profit and corporate greed, because corporate greed is killing us, every single day!
You know, I grew up in southwest Detroit, where I thought it was normal that my friends had gotten asthma, respiratory issues. I thought it was normal that it smelled like that. I thought it was normal to have trucks rumbling by my park, where we played in our schools. It’s not normal. It’s not normal to play outside and come in smelling like rotten eggs because of the hydrogen sulfide. It’s not normal literally for us to have notices saying you can’t play outside today, it’s too polluted.
All I keep thinking about is all the children in my district now having asthma attacks because of this, because we’re not moving with urgency, because people are paying to have access to the White House. They’re paying to write these bills. Time is up! This is a crisis that is not going anywhere; it’s just getting worse and we need to move with the urgency that’s needed. Because we have the right to breathe clean air and we shouldn’t have to beg the president or any administration to do something about it. We shouldn’t have to get arrested to breathe clean air! We shouldn’t have to push and push for the human dignity that we deserve! Enough!
You know, I keep telling people how many more scientists, how many more times you have to study this? I’m tired of getting studied, y’all! I’m tired of them coming back and saying, You’re right. Black and brown communities are on the front lines. They’re literally dying, getting sick while we don’t even have universal health care, while many are going bankrupt because of public health impacts. Do you know what asthma attack can do to a whole family, because of the bills that come?
It’s time. It’s time to say No more! Mountain Valley pipeline should never have been part of the debt crisis deal! What the hell does the pipeline have to do with reducing the deficit?! Don’t tell me this is about the deficit. This is about making more money, with the folks that literally profit off of pollution in our country and this world. It’s enough. Corporate greed is a disease in our country and you all are on the frontlines to make sure we can stop it.
It shouldn’t be this hard to say we deserve clean water, we deserve communities where we can walk out with our kids and not worry about an asthma attack. We shouldn’t sit there and wait and test and look at this and say “This is normal.”
I mean, you got right-wing people saying, “Well, China got this all the time, and India and all these other…” What are you talking about? That’s not how you’re supposed to be talking about it. This is a global crisis. If anything, many of those countries have shown us what doing nothing looks like. If anything, look at them!
They’re suffering right now because of it. And we’re suffering now. I know in my community, we haven’t met clean air standards in so long. I hear my staff saying, I got a headache just walking outside. We can’t normalize that! We can’t normalize indigenous communities literally being wiped out again because of people sitting there wanting to open up pipelines and destroy communities.
You know, you all gotta continue to speak truth to power. You gotta all continue to speak this truth, because I’m telling you, those that have access to the White House, they don’t care about us. They just care about the profit and the bottom line. They don’t care.
They don’t care that we got a broken health care system. They don’t care that I gotta go to these various schools and they have no clean water coming out of their fountains. They don’t care. They don’t care that all of this is just continuing to destroy our planet in a way that I don’t know if we can come back from.
So, thank you all for being out here. Y’all, when people were talking about this over a decade ago and I was in the state house and I was advocating and they’re saying “This is a climate emergency; this is a climate crisis.” They’ve been talking about this for decades. It’s time, y’all. This was all scheduled before all of this (dirty air from forest fires). And look at us. If there is no higher spirit telling us something has to happen, I don’t know what is. Look at this. Today, children can’t play outside because of all this.