Energy & Environment

Protesters arrested after sit-in at Interior Department

Greg Nash

Dozens of protesters were arrested after they waged a sit-in at the Interior Department on Thursday to protest fossil fuel projects.

People vs. Fossil Fuels, which organized a five-day protest event aimed at pressing President Biden to declare climate change an emergency and compel him to stop approving fossil fuel projects, reported on Thursday that 55 people had been arrested during the sit-in.

The group alleged that police had “acted aggressively with the water protectors” and had used stun guns on at least two people. They alleged that others had been hit with batons. 

Footage and photos circulated online of people being arrested inside the building.

“For the land, for our waters, for our future– we must fight now so our young will thrive. You can arrest us, tear gas us, poison us but there will always be more hearts to continue the song until we are all free,” Indigenous leaders who led the sit-in said in a statement.

In a statement following the event, Interior Department spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said that “multiple injuries were sustained by security personnel, and one officer has been transported to a nearby hospital.”

She said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who is Native American, had been traveling and was not in Washington, D.C., during the event,

“Interior Department leadership believes strongly in respecting and upholding the right to free speech and peaceful protest. Centering the voices of lawful protesters is and will continue to be an important foundation of our democracy,” Schwartz said. “It is also our obligation to keep everyone safe. We will continue to do everything we can to de-escalate the situation while honoring first amendment rights.”

The Federal Protective Service (FPS) did not indicate how many people had been arrested but noted in a statement that several other law enforcement agencies had assisted them in efforts “to detain, prosecute or take action against anyone who caused harm and attempted to disrupt the business of the federal government yesterday.”

“FPS is committed to the safety of demonstrators participating in lawful protests and fully supports the peaceful expression of all people. FPS will continue to pursue our mission of ensuring the safety and security of federal employees and facilities, consistent with the law,” the FPS said in a statement.

Updated at 6:29 p.m.

Tags climate Deb Haaland Deb Haaland Interior Department Joe Biden
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