“We’ve committed to not eating until you deliver on your climate commitments in the Build Back Better Act,” the Sunrise Movement activists — Kidus Girma, 26, Paul Campion, 24, Ema Govea, 18, Julia Paramo, 24, and Abby Leedy, 20 — wrote Tuesday in a letter to the White House, which was provided to HuffPost.
Leedy, who has been fasting alongside the others since Oct. 20, said that they feel “not great,” with a lot of fatigue, stomach pain, and muscle and joint aches.
The five take their blood pressure three times a day, and Girma was hospitalized overnight Saturday for nausea, dizziness and blurred vision but then returned to the strike. Outside the White House, they sit in wheelchairs because they cannot walk alone for long without the risk of falling or fainting from weakness.
An unknown number of other people are also fasting in solidarity with the hunger strikers.
The climate change activists are demanding that Democrats help pass “the full scope” of the bill, including measures to reduce emissions at least 50% by 2030, as Biden had pledged.
“Millions of people are going to die if they don’t do this — people our age, in our lifetimes, in climate disasters, in floods, fires and hurricanes, of starvation,” Leedy told HuffPost by phone Wednesday.
“We want Joe Biden and the Democrats to look us in the face, as real people going through the horrific experience of starving and withering away before their eyes, because that’s what’s on the line here, people’s bodies and people’s lives,” she added. “I don’t think we knew how else to get their attention.”
In their letter, the five ask that the president “stand up to Joe Manchin,” the Democratic senator from West Virginia, who has been an obstacle to several of Biden’s and progressive lawmakers’ more ambitious proposals.
Manchin, whose home state and personal wealth rely on the coal industry, effectively blocked the president’s clean electricity program from the package. The program would pay power companies to replace coal and gas plants with renewables and retrofit them with carbon-capture technology or pay fines.
The White House and Manchin did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
At a White House news conference Wednesday, press secretary Jen Psaki was asked for the president’s response to the hunger strikers, who believe the spending bill is being too watered down on climate.
“Biden admires the activism,” Psaki said of the strikers, and defended the bill as it stands amid negotiations as “the biggest investment to addressing the climate crisis in U.S. history.”
Campion, one of the hunger strikers, responded on Twitter: “We don’t want your admiration. Show us the results.”
Leedy echoed the sentiment, saying that, though the bill as it stands may be historic, “it is not enough.”
They plan to continue fasting “until it is clear Biden has used all of his powers as president to get us to his climate promises, which is 50% cuts to emissions by 2030. That is when we’ll stop.”
“As a young person, I am desperate and I am furious,” Leedy said. “And I think a lot of young people feel that way.”