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Montgomery County Council seeks reconciliation on climate action as 15 risk arrest

A key county council committee has responded to last-minute pressure from members of a growing climate emergency coalition, and nonviolent civil disobedience has been avoided for at least a few weeks.

On April 25, the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee of the Montgomery County Council supported a “reconciliation memo” by Councilmember Marc Elrich and introduced by Councilmember Sydney Katz as a sitting member of the Committee in response to the request of a new and growing coalition of Montgomery County (MoCo) climate activists (listed below.)

Originally, the Coalition requested a million dollars to fund the first, fully-staffed Office of Climate Emergency Mobilization in the country reporting directly to the County Executive. They also requested a broad 19-item “Mobilization” package of bills, resolutions and directions to County staff, two of which would also be “firsts-in-the-nation.”

Over fifty members of the coalition attended Council Budget Hearings on April 10 to request this new climate funding in the budget and over a dozen testified during the three days of hearings, making one of the strongest showings of the various groups providing input to the Council.

On the 25, fifteen activists showed up on a workday afternoon at the Committee hearing threatening civil disobedience—for the first time in Montgomery County history on a climate issue–if the memo failed. The Montgomery County police had been alerted and were on hand outside the hearing room. Fortunately, the memo passed.

Traditionally, the County forms a “reconciliation list” based on these requests for discretionary additions to the Budget submitted to the Council by the County Executive. This year, the County faces an especially severe shortfall. However, it is likely that there will be substantial funds for distribution to the list. A no vote on Wednesday essentially would have ended any prospect for any of that funding going in response to the coalition’s financial requests.

“As evidenced by nonviolent actions by climate activists across the country, I was willing to risk arrest to highlight as tool we need to consider in MOCO. Most of the people attending today expressed a willingness to risk arrest at the next stage of the process, in a few weeks, when the County decides whether actually to appropriate this small, but symbolic amount,” said Dr. Jim Driscoll, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran and former MIT professor.

Driscoll noted that the individuals risking arrest today were not representing the coalition or any organization. He was one of the key organizers of 13,000 people getting arrested including Carl Sagan and most of the national Convention of the American Public Health Associations in a successful campaign to stop U.S. nuclear testing in the mid-’80s. “That campaign began with a couple of people getting arrested.,” he noted.

Bill Christeson, who helped lay the groundwork for the People Power revolutions that began in the Philippines also was risking arrest today. He warned, “Talk is cheap (on climate), but inaction is prohibitively expensive, just ask the people in Houston, a city hit by three 500-year floods in just three years.

 

Organizational Members of “Spring ’18 Climate Emergency Mobilization” Coalition (in formation)

350 MoCo

Capitol View Democracy Crew

Glen Echo Heights/Indivisible

Montgomery County Green Party

Maryland Women’s Alliance for Democracy and Justice

MoCo Chapter of The Climate Mobilization

MOCO Education Exploratory Committee for The Climate Mobilization

Montgomery County Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions

Progressive for Equality and Compassion for Everyone (PEACE)

Takoma Park Mobilization Environmental Committee

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Alexia Leclerq

Network Coach

Alexia (she/they) is an environmental justice organizer based in Austin, TX. They graduated summa cum laude from NYU (’20), where they self-designed a major titled “The Politics and Economics of Inequality.” Their research focuses on political ecology, environmental justice, AAPI communities, inequality, postcolonialism. As an organizer and researcher they have spent the past 5 years working on various issues from preserving the Colorado River, water rights, fighting land use policy and zoning that enforces race-based discrimination, conducting ethnographic research on climate health, to organizing mutual aid, youth programming, and shaping national legislation alongside members of the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum and the Environmental Justice Health Alliance; today Alexia continues to work as an organizer with PODER, a grassroots EJ org. Alexia is also the co-founder of Start: Empowerment, a BIPOC led social and environmental justice education non-profit working with youth, educators, activists, and community members to implement justice-focused education and programming in schools and community spaces. S:E curriculum and programming has reached over 2,000 students, been recognized by the NYC Department of Education, and taught in universities. In 2021, their work was recognized by the prestigious Brower Youth Award.

Emmett Hopkins

National Organizer

Emmett organizes local-scale mobilization for the Sonoma County campaign, while supporting Climate Mobilization’s organizing efforts around the country. He brings over a decade of experience collaborating with diverse stakeholders to build community food systems, ensure equitable access to public lands, and mobilize resources towards a just transition to an amazing zero carbon future. He graduated from Stanford with a BS in Earth Systems and MS in Urban Planning & Sustainable Design. Emmett enjoys growing food and cultivating relationships, riding bikes and buses, and reimagining our communities to better serve all the people living in them.

Suha Dabbouseh

National Organizer

National Organizer Suha Dabbouseh leads national strategy for The Climate Mobilization. They are originally from Chicago but have lived, organized and rebel-roused in seven states and 11 cities. Suha received their law degree from CUNY-School of Law where they focused on social justice lawyering representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay. While practicing law, Suha had worked to advocate on behalf of domestic violence survivors, transgender clients and fighting employment discrimination. Their passion is building people power and organizing to dismantle structural inequities.

Matt Renner

Executive Director of The Climate Mobilization

Matt has worked as a nonprofit executive in clean energy, climate policy, and journalism for over a decade, focusing on the near-term social and economic impacts of climate change. He leads organizational expansion and works closely with the communications and organizing teams. Matt earned a BA in political science from UC Berkeley, where he was deeply inspired by the work of Professor George Lakoff.

Mariyah Jahangiri

Network Organizer

Mariyah leads Climate Mobilization Network’s recruitment, coordination, and organizing support. She has organized across movements and is passionate about addressing white supremacy in the mainstream climate movement and building capacity for youth-led, BIPOC-led intersectional climate movements. She has been inspired by her experiences organizing to defund the police in Boston, supporting mutual aid and food sovereignty projects in Iowa, Atlanta, and Puerto Rico, and working on a Make Big Polluters Pay campaign. Mariyah worked as an organizer with the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign and Planned Parenthood PAC. She graduated from Grinnell College with a Sociology degree.

Rebecca Harris

Co-Leader and Director of Organizing

Rebecca leads Climate Mobilization organizing efforts. Along with a history of social movement organizing, Rebecca he has worked as a journalist covering equity in Chicago public schools. Most recently, Rebecca worked as Development and Communications Manager at Latino Union of Chicago, an immigrants’ and workers’ rights organization. She is a 2017 graduate of the Reframe Mentorship in strategic communications and a 2019 participant in the Anne Braden Organizer Training Program.

Marina Mails

Co-Leader and Director of Operations
Marina manages operations and volunteers for both The Climate Mobilization and Climate Mobilization Project. She brings broad experience working in non-profit organizations, health care settings, and running her own private counseling practice. Before joining Climate Mobilization, Marina maintained a practice focusing exclusively on climate-related emotional coping, helping people make bold choices for lifestyle and professional change in response to the Climate Emergency. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish from Wake Forest University and a Masters in Counseling from UNC Greensboro.

Meghann Beer

Co-Leader and Director of Resource Mobilization and Strategy

Meghann brings more than 20 years of nonprofit management and fundraising experience to The Climate Mobilization and Climate Mobilization Project. For over a decade Meghann has worked as a nonprofit consultant helping organizations expand their capacity, secure revenue, develop successful strategies, and effectively evaluate their programs, enabling them to create greater positive change in the world. She has also worked as an executive director, designed and facilitated international service learning experiences, and taught university courses in fundraising and nonprofit management. Meghann earned a MPA in Nonprofit Management and Comparative and International Affairs from The School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, in Bloomington, IN and a BA in Art History and American Studies from Tufts University in Boston, MA.

Cris Lagunas

Strategy Director

Cris is helping to grow the Climate Emergency Movement by supporting creative campaigns and extending the reach of the movement’s message. Cris is a co-founder of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, an organization dedicated to using direct action tactics to expose, challenge and dismantle the immigration detention system.Cris got his start in organizing when he was 15 years old, getting involved in a local group of fellow undocumented youth.

Zack Burley

Policy Associate

Zack provides policy support for the Climate Mobilization team, and brings a versatile set of policy skills and experiences in labor organizing, journalism, legislative politics, and legal practice to the climate emergency movement. Zack earned a JD from Denver University Sturm College of Law, is a founding organizer of the Political Workers Guild of Colorado, and formerly served as a legislative aide in the Colorado General Assembly.

AriDy Nox

Co-Leader and Director of Narrative Strategy

 AriDy Nox is a multi-disciplinary black femme storyteller and social activist with a variety of forward-thinking creative works under her/their belt. They create out of the vehement belief that creating a future in which marginalized peoples are free requires a radical imagination. Their tales are offerings intended to function as small parts of an ancient, expansive, awe-inspiring tradition of world-shaping, created by and for black femmes. They have over a decade of experience as a young social activist and organizer, within reproductive justice and racial justice frameworks with organizations like the Young Women of Color Leadership Council with Advocates for Youth, the Toni Cade Bamabara Collective at Spelman College and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. They bring creativity, enthusiasm and a tremendous capacity for organization to her/their role and deep belief that times of apocalypse are opportunities for rebirth. We need first imagine the world we want in order to create it.