WILMINGTON — Reminiscent of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Occupy Biden has, literally, set up camp just around the corner from President Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington.
Occupy Biden is a Christmas week, round-the-clock climate justice occupation, set up at 909 Centre Road, calling on the president to take further executive action on climate issues.
Several organizations from Delaware and surrounding areas are participating in the movement, including Extinction Rebellion, Fridays for Future DE, Democratic Socialists of America, Philly Water Protectors, and the Sunrise Youth Movement.
As many as 20 individuals from the various organizations are planting their boots on the ground from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day to demonstrate their commitment to their cause. Their makeshift campsite is equipped with a wood stove, bathroom facilities, fire pits and an eating area for 24/7 occupation.
The movement’s primary goal is to urge President Biden to issue an executive order declaring a climate emergency and mandating that all federal government agencies oppose any new fossil fuel projects.
“You can’t look away from the climate crisis at this point. We saw it right here with Hurricane Ida,” said Karen Igou, with Extinction Rebellion DE. “This is all happening before our eyes, and why our government cannot address it and really combat it is absurd, so we are angry.”
Ms. Igou is one of many who has not left the campsite since Christmas Day.
“We are standing in solidarity with people who are already really vulnerable to the climate crisis and we’re making ourselves uncomfortable,” Ms. Igou said. “We’ve had a couple of cold nights, people are sleeping in their cars … We feel that to be more of a presence of action if we make ourselves vulnerable, or try to, because this is not near what people are experiencing, between fires and floods and starvation and war, which is all happening right now because of our climate crisis.”
She added that the next generation of youth may be the angriest at the climate crisis, as they will inherit what becomes of the earth.
Neha Veeragandhan, 17, from Charter School of Wilmington, spoke at an Occupy Biden press conference on Monday about the importance of youth activism. She said her parents wouldn’t let her camp out in the cold, but she has been a strong presence at the site all week.
“I’m so inspired by everyone who has been here day and night through the cold and colder,” she said.
Pier-Paolo Ergueta, 17, from Wilmington Friends, said the first major step to activism is spreading the message.
“As an individual, you can make small decisions like using less plastic and not leaving the water running,” Pier-Paolo said. “But spreading the message is the biggest thing an individual can do to corporations, a senator and the president even, especially as fortunate as a position we are in here in Delaware.”
Neither student was old enough to vote in the 2020 presidential election, but both are excited to participate in the 2022 midterms. They agreed that political activism and awareness is important for youth, as well.
“Even if you can’t vote yet, there are still people who will listen to you because you are the future voters for the next 70 to 80 years,” Neha said.
“You can change the opinions of your parents and teachers and other people you know. I think it’s so powerful to hear from a youth perspective because people are inspired that so many young people care about the world.”
Pier-Paolo said he thinks President Biden is doing a fairly good job of focusing on climate change, even though passing bills through Congress is a tough task. Although his plans so far, such as Build Back Better, support climate infrastructure, Pier-Paolo said it is still not enough.
“We need to support what he is already doing but it is important to keep fighting and get what we can do to fulfill some of his promises, but also to fulfill promises to the next generations, being our own, that will suffer the most from these effects,” he said.
Thursday afternoon, the groups that make up Occupy Biden held a roundtable discussion to give people an opportunity to talk about climate change and how it is impacting their communities.
Today, Occupy Biden will host a New Year’s Eve celebration at the campsite, with headsets for a silent disco, bringing people together with local activists to build connections.
On the last day of their campout, around noon, a closing ceremony will provide opportunity for “direct action,” after the cumulation of seven consecutive days of climate activism.
Masks and COVID-19 vaccination cards are required at the campsite and Occupy Biden events.