Four local residents arrested in climate change protest in D.C.

  • Sofia Perrotto, Marty Nathan, Sue Donaldson and Russ Vernon-Jones are seen protesting Wednesday as part of the People vs. Fossil Fuels action in Washington, D.C. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/14/2021 8:32:03 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Four local activists chose to get themselves arrested in Washington on Wednesday as part of an effort to push President Joe Biden to take action on climate change.

Marty Nathan, Sofia Perrotto and Sue Donaldson, all of Northampton, and Russ Vernon-Jones of Amherst traveled to D.C. to deliberately risk arrest as part of a five-day-long, Indigenous-led action, People vs. Fossil Fuels.

“Biden needs to declare a climate emergency,” Nathan said.

The four protested outside of the White House, and were arrested for standing in front of the White House fence along with around 100 other people, Nathan said.

“We weren’t harming anyone,” she said. “We weren’t littering even.”

Still, she said that the protesters were aware that their actions could result in arrest, as others had been arrested previously.

Nathan said Biden has the power to stop the use of fossil fuel infrastructure such as Line 3 and the Dakota Access Pipeline by pulling their permits.

“We can no longer rely on fossil fuels that are killing us,” she said.

Nathan said those arrested Wednesday were given the option of being cited and answering to charges in court, or being released. Since the four of them needed to go back to Massachusetts, she said they opted for release, and returned to the Pioneer Valley late Wednesday.

Vernon-Jones said that the standard citation for their offense is $50, and that they will be donating at least that much each to the Indigenous Environmental Network, which helped to organize the protests.

While Vernon-Jones, Nathan and Donaldson had all been arrested for civil disobedience before, this was Perrotto’s fist time doing so.

“We’ve gone a lot through what to bring, what to wear,” Perrotto, 23, said, the day before her arrest. “It’s great to have people who I trust so much with me.”

Speaking the day after her arrest, Perrotto said that she thought everything went well and that being arrested was a lot more of an organized experience than she’d expected. She did say, however, that being around armed police was intense, and she was aware of her privilege in that situation.

“My life was not as threatened as someone who was of color,” she said.

She also said she and her three fellow protesters bonded, and that there needs to be more climate actions led by indigenous and BIPOC communities.

“It’s really about humanity,” she said, noting that people have disparate access to resources like water. “We need to keep a global perspective when we’re thinking about climate.”

Nathan said that the group they were arrested with was both multiracial and multigenerational. And she said that Biden could make a tremendous difference on climate change.

“There is no Planet B,” Nathan said.

Vernon-Jones said humanity knows what needs to be done about the climate crisis “and we’re not doing it.”

“We’re in a situation where many many people are going to need to speak out,” Vernon-Jones said. “We’re clearly in an emergency.”

Speaking of the protest and his arrest, Vernon-Jones said he thought it was a “very effective action.”

He also noted that there were inspiring speakers and how harmful climate change was to Indigenous people and people of color in the U.S. and around the world.

Vernon-Jones said that a number of school groups witnessed the protests and that he thought it was great that they got to see people taking action on climate change.

“I’m confident that they could sense our caring for people and the Earth,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at
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