In its first demonstration at the office of a politician, Bowdoin Climate Action (BCA) brought about 15 students to the Augusta, Maine office of Senator Angus King on Friday to express disapproval of King’s vote to confirm Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Members of BCA also urged King to reject Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), reject all of Trump’s appointees and support a democratic filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Although King was not present in his office, members of BCA spoke to staffers and presented them with a letter addressed to King.

The letter was signed by the Bowdoin students who attended the demonstration on Friday. BCA leader Emily Ruby ’19 read it aloud and handed it to Teague Morris, a director of constituent services for King.

The letter expressed disapproval for King’s support of Tillerson. It noted King’s demonstrated support of climate justice. It also outlined Tillerson’s involvement in funding climate denial and lying about climate change realities as a former CEO of ExxonMobil.

“Senator King has always portrayed himself to be a climate leader and has aligned himself with the values of climate justice,” said Isabella McCann ’19, a leader of BCA. “To see him vote in favor of Rex Tillerson on Wednesday was a surprise and a disappointment.”

The letter from Bowdoin students highlighted King’s connection to Bowdoin as professor emeritus and Brunswick resident. It urged King to use his unique position as an Independent to “challenge Trump’s racist agenda” and uphold “the values that Mainers hold so dear.”

“Senator King has been supportive of our work in the past in terms of our general mission and he has interacted with us,” said Julia Berkman-Hill ’17, a leader of BCA. “He sent a video to us in 2014 where he said he thinks it’s appropriate that students are the leaders of the climate movement and that our generation is going to be the one to inherit the crisis.”

Staffers responded with a statement that King’s press team had prepared for the Bowdoin students about his vote for Tillerson.

“With respect to Mr. Tillerson’s nomination, and particularly in the wake of the President’s hasty executive order to severely restrict immigration last weekend, Senator King believed it was important to immediately install a critical moderating influence and counterweight to the more compulsive forces within the administration,” read King’s statement.

“Like those who voice their opinions today, Senator King still harbors concerns regarding Mr. Tillerson’s past connections to Russia, as well as climate change contributing activities that occurred at ExxonMobil during his tenure,” the statement continued. “But, on balance, those concerns were outweighed by Senator King’s belief that there needed to be a strong and serious leader at the helm of the state department, someone who could offer the president a forceful thoughtful and measured judgment on the critical issues we face.”

Although this is BCA’s first trip to the office of a politician, some of its members spoke to candidates of both parties on the campaign trail last year in the hopes of pressuring them to address the climate crisis.

BCA will be organizing a phone bank this week to call senators to reject the appointment of Scott Pruitt in particular and all of Trump’s nominees.

“Now more than ever it’s imperative that students get involved in political activism and pressuring their representatives,” said McCann.

“In a Trump era, our representatives are our first line of defense against his racist xenophobic sexist and climate-denying agenda,” she added. “We plan on interacting with our representatives and the political scene in the coming weeks in a way that pressures our community to resist Trump’s agenda.”