Students from the new Sunrise Movement hub at AU joined thousands of protesters at the D.C. Climate Strike in front of the Capitol Building on Sept. 20, demanding action against climate change as part of the largest worldwide climate protest in history.
The group of six Sunrise activists from AU gathered in John Marshall Park that morning, where they rallied with other activists for half an hour before marching to the Capitol Building. Once there, the AU hub sat on a wall overlooking the rally, holding a massive yellow sign emblazoned with the Sunrise Movement’s primary goal: “GREEN NEW DEAL.”
“I think that with an issue like this, everybody has to make sacrifices,” said Louisa Keyani, the outreach coordinator for Sunrise’s AU hub. “I skipped two classes to come today. But all I would ask is that you look at what's happening … to our planet, and consider what's more important, missing a class or the future of humanity.”
Tyler Massias, the Sunrise hub’s chief coordinator at AU, said that he hopes that the energy and activism presented at the strike isn’t just a one-day event.
“I’m really proud right now because I’m sitting right beside some of the best AU students on the planet,” Massias said. “That really says a lot, especially when we want to talk about how politically active our campus is – this goes to show that.”
The Sunrise Movement is a national organization made up of young people with the goal of stopping climate change and electing leaders to support climate legislation, specifically the Green New Deal, in Congress. The organization is built around “hubs” in various cities, towns and schools across the U.S. that serve as rallying points for the larger movement.
The AU group, which is the first of its kind at a college in D.C. and the second collegiate Sunrise hub nationwide, was formed over the summer by Massias, Keyani and Tasneem Osman.
Keyani said that in the time since the hub was founded over the summer, engagement over social media has been especially successful. Approximately 40 students are now on their mailing list, and a dozen of them attended the pre-strike meeting earlier in the week.
One major point of discussion among the three organizers, they said, has been whether to file for official club status at the University. With filing comes financial benefits from the AU Club Council, but this comes at the cost of more oversight from the University.
So far, the Sunrise Movement has seen success with grassroots fundraising, Keyani said, and is leaning toward an unofficial status at AU.
As he stared out at the protesting crowd, Massias expressed his optimism about the impact of the strike.
“I think everyone's bringing really good energy,” he said. “They're really enthusiastic, and they're really passionate. And that's just what we need to really enact some kind of change right here on Capitol Hill.”