Environmental writer McKibben arrested at Stefanik protest

Bill McKibben speaks in October 2015. (Enterprise photo — Shaun Kittle)

GLENS FALLS — One of the people arrested in Thursday’s protest outside the Glens Falls office of U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, was environmental writer Bill McKibben, who chronicled the experience in The New Yorker.

McKibben, a former Adirondack resident who wrote “The End of Nature” and other well-known books, was among a group of six protesters who engaged in civil disobedience by refusing to leave Stefanik’s office and were arrested for trespassing.

About 50 people participated in the protest, which called for an end to the migrant detention camps at the southern U.S. border.

The event was organized by a coalition of Saratoga Peace Alliance, the Saratoga Immigration Coalition and the Southern Adirondack branch of the Democratic Socialists of America. There was also a counterprotest of about 25 supporters of President Donald Trump organized by American Patriots Express.

McKibben is a former staff writer for The New Yorker who calls Vermont home. In the New Yorker piece, he describes the color at the scene, including the two groups facing off with chants and songs, largely drowned out by a bullhorn used by the Trump supporters.

Then, he and five others went into Stefanik’s office, requesting to speak or Skype with the congresswoman. A member of Stefanik’s staff said she was phoning Washington and then told the group that Stefanik was unavailable and she was closing the office, according to McKibben’s account.

A detective arrived and told them they would have to leave, adding that he did not see why it would do any good to be arrested.

“I doubted that it would change anyone’s mind if we were carted away. And yet it seemed, somehow, like a necessary, if modest, gesture of solidarity with the people sitting for months on end in holding pens in the desert,” McKibben wrote.

Immigration is an important issue for McKibben because of climate change, which he said is driving many people to move from countries in Central America, which have been affected by drought and heat.

McKibben is also founder of the grassroots climate group 350.org, which encourages people to reduce greenhouse gases.

McKibben concluded his essay by reflecting on this possible punishment and stating it was worth it.

“A legal-aid lawyer said that the possible sentence was a term of three months, which I devoutly hope is not the case — a few hours was dreary enough,” he wrote. “But it’s a good reminder that there are many people effectively sentenced to terms like that on the border — people who can’t find their children, people who have no real home to go back to. We can’t be like them, those of us who have options and resources and connections. But we can, in some small way, be with them.”

Seeking common ground

Paul Hancock, chairman of the Southern Adirondack chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, said he plans to reach out to the American Patriots Express pro-Trump group in an effort to find common ground.

Hancock said in an email that he had a nice chat with a Trump supporter who had come into the office of Stefanik as part of the protest and counterprotest over the issue of closing the border detention camps.

After staring at each other for a few minutes, the two began talking and did not agree on anything regarding the immigration debate. However, Hancock started talking about his experience serving in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and how he recalled pilots coming back from bombing missions, admitting that they dropped ordnance on rice patties.

“One vivid case that I remember, a pilot came back with mud on the side of his jet and he bragged about it,” he said.

“There were instances where I thought the war didn’t make sense, that we were there for the wrong reason, or at least we were carrying out the war in a way that was brutal and maybe criminal,” he said.

This led to a larger conversation about how war affects people. Hancock said he agreed with Trump’s conduct of foreign policy to a certain extent. Trump has engaged in drone strikes and dropped bombs on Afghanistan, but in other cases has been reluctant to use the military.

“Trump also seems to be less-than-eager to do what past presidents have done, which is to engage in all-out war in a foreign land,” he said.

They then talked about what war does to people when they come back and problems such as the opioid epidemic.

Hancock said he would like to continue the conversation.

Election security

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., visited the Center for Internet Security in East Greenbush on Monday to call for passage of legislation to protect elections from foreign interference and cyberattacks.

Schumer has co-sponsored the Election Security Act with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota senator and Democratic presidential candidate. The bill would establish a $1 billion grant program to help state and local governments improve local elections from any threats from foreign attacks.

The Center for Internet Security is a nonprofit organization that works to safeguard private and public organizations against cyberthreats, according to its website.