Environmentalists Welcome Senators With Windmills

Activists Build Tiny Wind Turbines

Capital News Service
Tuesday, September 8, 2009

WASHINGTON - Environmental activists pretended to build tiny wind turbines in the Hart Senate Office Building here Tuesday to call attention to clean energy legislation on the same day senators were set to return from their August recess.

"We're holding this creative demonstration to welcome the Senate back," said Anne Havemann, of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, one of the organizations sponsoring the rally. Avaaz Climate Action Factory and the Energy Action Coalition also sponsored the event.

Activists wearing green hard hats passed windmills cut from paper plates and stuck to plain, brown pencils down lines 15 people long, each turbine getting a round green sticker in its center.

The activists moved in robotic jerks, making machine noises as they passed their ersatz windmills, gathering them into used grocery bags for redistribution to Senate offices.

After the kinetic demonstration, which was halted after about 10 minutes by Capitol Police because of noise concerns, a pair of two-story-long green banners were hung from an upper floor -- an activity that was not publicized before the rally.

"We didn't want to be stopped before we got our message out," Havemann said before the unfurling.

The banners read, "Get to work" and "Green jobs now," and caused a small storm of activity from Capitol Police, who had the banners removed within five minutes.

Allison Fisher, 25, and John Glick, 59, were charged with unlawful conduct for demonstrating inside Capitol buildings, said Capitol Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider.

"We did know that there was a possibility of arrest," said Katherine McEachern of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. "We really wanted to make a big display where all our senators were working on their first day back. ... I definitely think that our senators know that young people are looking for change."

"It was cool. I thought it was a very creative way of making a statement," said Sylvia Brookoff, 19, a freshman political science and audio technology major at American University attending her first rally. "Hopefully next time it will last longer."

Keith Harrington, 23, of the District of Columbia, coached Brookoff's group as it approached different Senate offices.

"You should ask: Can you please pass a note to the energy LA (legislative assistant)?"

To Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, Harrington brought a beribboned bundle of constituent letters in addition to the windmill.

Cardin is a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Harrington said he is working on a section of a bill that deals with pollution allowance.

"They've been giving us a series of letters for quite some time and obviously the senator is leading the charge in terms of protecting the Chesapeake Bay," said Sue Walitsky, national communications director in Cardin's office. "We appreciate their efforts spreading the word of how important this is.... It's always great to have groups, especially in Maryland, who are so supportive and so strong."