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Climate change activists storm and take over Department of Interior building

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

A demonstration in Washington, D.C., against fossil fuel projects turned violent Thursday when climate change protesters stormed the U.S. Department of the Interior building and occupied a space inside the federal building for hours.

There have been protests this week in Washington, D.C., as part of the People Vs. Fossil Fuels demonstrations, demanding President Joe Biden to declare a national climate emergency and end fossil fuel projects. The activists are fiercely against oil pipelines such as the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota.

Each day, the protests have different climate change-related themes:

  • Monday, October 11: Indigenous Peoples' Day
  • Tuesday, October 12: Fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis
  • Wednesday, October 13: Climate chaos is happening now
  • Thursday, October 14: We need real solutions, not false promises
  • Friday, October 15: We did not vote for fossil fuels (youth-led action)

In the first three days of protests, nearly 300 climate change activists were arrested, according to organizers of the People Vs. Fossil Fuels demonstrations.

The protests escalated to violence during Thursday's protests when activists attempted to barge into the Department of the Interior building. An Interior Department spokeswoman told the Associated Press that a group of protesters rushed the lobby of the federal building.

Washington Post reporter Ellie Silverman shared video of climate change activists infiltrating the Department of the Interior building on Oct. 14.

"Climate protesters are pushing police, trying to force their way into the Department of the Interior where other activists have made it inside in an attempt to occupy the building," Silverman wrote on Twitter.

Police and protesters clashed during the confrontation. The police reportedly used Tasers in order to control the crowd attempting to bulldoze their way into the Department of Interior building.

"Some activists are walking away from the doorway hurt, and protesters are yelling for medics to help," Silverman reported.

Climate activists took over the space held by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for roughly four hours. This was reportedly the first time since the 1970s that the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., was occupied. The Indigenous Environmental Network, one of the organizers of the People Vs. Fossil Fuels demonstrations, are demanding the Biden administration abolish the Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs.

There were allegedly more than 50 occupiers in the building. Some are seen sitting in a circle on the floor with their hands zip-tied together to make them more difficult to be removed.

Security personnel suffered "multiple injuries" during the clash – including one officer who needed to be transported to a nearby hospital, according to Jim Goodwin, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland was reportedly traveling on Thursday and was not in the building during the protest.

"Interior Department leadership believes strongly in respecting and upholding the right to free speech and peaceful protest," Melissa Schwartz, a spokeswoman for Haaland, said in a statement. "Centering the voices of lawful protesters is and will continue to be an important foundation of our democracy. 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."

Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the Interior during the Trump administration, was incensed by the "blatant lawlessness and endangerment of staff."

The reports and photos from the Department of the Interior headquarters are shocking and frankly sickening. Never under my watch would such blatant lawlessness and endangerment of staff and law enforcement have been permitted. Where is the liberal outrage now against lawlessness and destruction of government property? Deafeningly silent of course. I never cared about cancel culture activist backlash, and I don't care now. The left must not hide behind identity politics and instead recognize this for what it is: A planned and organized effort to destroy government property and incite violence against federal employees and law enforcement officials. I doubt they will, but their silence speaks louder than any token statement they release.
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