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Climate change activists reprimanded in protest sit-in at Baker’s office

Residents are charged with trespassing and unlawful assembly on Thursday for participating in a sit-in outside of Gov. Charlie Baker’s office. PHOTO BY RACHEL SHARPLES/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Twenty-six people were charged with trespassing and unlawful assembly Thursday evening after protesting the use of non-renewable energy outside of Gov. Charlie Baker’s office past public hours.

Backed by around 300 other people, the protesters refused to leave the building until Baker signed an executive order that would prohibit fossil fuel infrastructure projects built in the state.

After the governor didn’t respond to the activists’ demands, the 26 protesters were charged by the State Police when the building closed at 6 p.m., according to a press release from the Better Future Project.

Craig Altemose, executive director of the Better Future Project, an organization which works to address climate issues and promote renewable energy, explained Baker isn’t addressing his initial pledge to uphold the goals of the Paris Climate Accord.

“We think that our state deserves stronger leadership from our governor, who has been supporting more fracked gas projects, to instead oppose them and help us unambiguously advance toward a clean energy future,” Altemose wrote in an email. “It’s just foolish to keep building new fossil fuel projects when we know we want only renewable energy moving forward.”

Evan Seitz, climate justice organizer for UU Mass Action, an organization that mobilizes Unitarian Universalists around social justice issues in the state, said he believes Baker’s energy policies are “a form of violence” against Massachusetts residents.

“Fossil fuel companies take people’s property with eminent domain and they put dangerous, high-pressure pipelines in people’s properties and communities,” Seitz said. “It’s also a form of violence to build new fossil fuel infrastructure projects that tie us into burning fossil fuels for the next 40 years.”

After the executive order was proposed to Baker in early September, an average of six protesters stood outside his office one hour a day each week. The number of activists steadily grew to approximately 50 to 100 people participating in daily protests, Seitz said.

Peter Lorenz, the communications director for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said in a statement Massachusetts has a commitment to clean energy and an obligation to fight climate change.

“The Baker-Polito Administration remains committed to diversifying the state’s energy portfolio and embracing advanced technologies to strengthen the state’s clean energy economy, stabilize and reduce energy costs, and progress toward Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas reduction requirements through the implementation of comprehensive bipartisan energy legislation enacted last year,” Lorenz stated.

Andy Bean, campaign coordinator for Boston Climate Action Network, wrote in an email it is in the interest of the state to transition to sustainable energy.

“Under such circumstances, any new fossil fuel infrastructure must meet an extraordinarily high standard,” Bean said. “Instead, we should be investing in a modern, clean, and renewable energy future. It’s long past time that the voices of Massachusetts residents who have been hurt by the energy policies of the Baker administration be heard as well.”

Several members who participated in the sit-in said protesting was a necessity in order to create change.

Jim Mulloy, 53, of Boxford, wrote in an email that participating in his first act of nonviolent civil disobedience was invigorating.

“It was really gratifying to know that there were 25 other Mass residents sitting with me, willing to face charges in order to pressure the governor and to raise awareness about this issue,” he wrote. “We will continue pressuring the governor to use his authority to help in the effort to address climate change.”

Sue Donaldson, 68, of Cambridge, and an organizer of the sit-in, wrote in an email that upon learning of the vital importance of climate change, she retired from her medical practice in order to do climate work full-time.

“We sat, we sang, we chanted, and sometime in the afternoon various people stood up and talked about why they were there and what they thought was important,” she said. “We said to the governor that he had failed us, but that we’d be back. We asked him to give us some thought over the holiday season and that we’d see him in January.”

Laura Burns, 64, of Hingham, wrote in an email she chose to participate in the sit-in in order to enact change to protect future generations.

“I came to sit in at the governor’s office because we are out of time,” she said. “Climate change is not in the future, it’s today, right now, and we must act right now or our grand-children will have very little to thank us for—when they ask me what I did to protect their future, I want to have an answer.”

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