The Sunrise Movement, often referred to as “Sunrise,” is a left-of-center 501(c)(4) environmental advocacy organization founded in 2017. The group endorses liberal and far-left Democratic Party candidates for public office and organizes alongside other activist organizations to support expansive and radical environmentalist legislation it terms a “Green New Deal.” Sunrise Movement is the 501(c)(4) advocacy counterpart to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Sunrise Movement Education Fund (legally named U.S. Climate Plan Inc.).
Sunrise seeks not only to push environmental legislation on local, state, and national levels, but also targets individual political officials for failing to support its policy goals or failing to pledge to refuse campaign contributions from the mainstream energy industry.
In January 2019 the Sunrise Movement was a co-signatory on a letter that denounced nuclear power as “dirty energy” (nuclear power plants produce no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions). 
The formation of Sunrise Movement began in 2015, arising out of discussions between various activists and organizers in separate parts of the climate change movement. After the 2016 election, the organizers believed that more direct action was required to bring climate change and ending the use of traditional energy to the forefront of political discourse. Sunrise was founded by a group of activists on the premise that both protests and electoral strategy were needed to advance their political agenda. 
Many of the co-founders and organizers who started Sunrise Movement previously worked with other left-wing environmentalist organizations, including 350.org, which also provided financial support to the group in the past. 
Evan Weber, one of Sunrise’s co-founders, was a political activist in the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011.  Weber attended Wesleyan University with Matthew Lichtash, who was studying environmental policy. Michael Dorsey, another Sunrise co-founder, was a visiting professor at Wesleyan. Together, Weber, Lichtash, and Dorsey won a $30,000 grant in 2013 to draft a plan on climate change. The Sierra Club, a large, left-wing environmentalist group, allowed the group to use its Washington, D.C. office space to draft their plan. 
According to job postings by Sunrise, the group is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, though as of February 2019 it has no publicly available filings with the IRS. The job postings also list Sunrise’s address as the same as the Sierra Club’s in Washington, D.C.  
Upon completing their written plan, the group next sought to raise public awareness. This led to the creation of the U.S. Climate Plan Inc., now known as the Sunrise Movement Education Fund, in 2014. 
Varshini Prakash, one of the founding members of Sunrise, led the Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for two years during her time at the school.  Prakash has worked with the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network, which pressures universities and coordinates energy divestment campaigns at both regional and national levels.  Sara Blazevic, another co-founder of Sunrise, also worked with the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network.  Prakash now serves as the spokesperson for Sunrise. She describes the movement as a merging of “electoral organizing with creative protest to build, alongside others, a political force great enough to win.” 
In December 2018, Sunrise officials reported having approximately 16 full-time staff and raising approximately $1 million since its founding.  Sunrise rents office space from the Sierra Club in Washington, D.C., although the two organizations claim to be independent from one another, despite the Sierra Club supporting Sunrise with 5-figure grants in the past. 
Green New Deal
The Sunrise Movement is the foremost group behind the push for a so-called “Green New Deal,” a left-wing legislative and economic spending plan that aims to reduce or eliminate all fossil fuel extraction and non-renewable energy sources across the county. Critics charged the plan would ban most private cars, commercial air travel, and animal agriculture. 
Despite its name, the Green New Deal does not only propose changes to energy and environmental policy. Also embedded in the plan are major overhauls to the nation’s transportation, labor, education, and health care systems, including guaranteeing a job for every American, providing paid vacation days, and taxpayer-funded higher education. 
Many estimates predict that the Green New Deal will cost taxpayers tens of trillions of dollars over the next decade. The cost of expanding renewable energy to meet the demands imposed by the Green New Deal would alone cost $2 trillion.  The deal’s plan to “draw down greenhouse gases” would cost another $11 trillion.  Guaranteeing jobs and a “living wage” to all Americans would cost taxpayers another $500 billion in its first year alone.  Supporters of the Green New Deal suggest that the government raise taxes and borrow money in order to pay for many of the plan’s aspirations. 
In January 2019, a group of over 600 leftist organizations, including the Sunrise Movement, signed on to a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to consider the Green New Deal. In its letter, the organizations stated that they “vigorously oppose” any legislation that promotes free-market based solutions and mechanisms, instead of government regulation and bureaucracy, for solving environmental issues. 
In addition to advocating for the “Green New Deal” legislation, the Sunrise Movement also targets politicians who they accuse of accepting campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry or energy companies and their executives. The group has been known to organize large-scale protests and disrupt public officials by staging sit-in demonstrations, including at the U.S. Capitol offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland). 
When asked about political tactics, Sunrise spokesperson Varshini Prakash stated that the Sunrise Movement needs to “make it politically impossible for a Democratic lawmaker to vote no on the Green New Deal” by being “inescapable.”  The group plans to continue tactics such as protesting and sit-in demonstrations to reach its policy objectives. Prakash says that if Democratic lawmakers don’t buy in, the Sunrise Movement will consider supporting primary challengers in future election cycles.
Several, if not most, of the Sunrise activist demonstrations have led to numerous arrests for charges such as unlawful demonstration, obstructing, and incommoding.
In August 2018, Sunrise activists organized protests and sit-ins in major cities across the country to pressure politicians who they deemed were “corrupted by the influence of the fossil fuel industry.”  In New York City, dozens of activists protested at the Manhattan office of Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) to demand that he pledge to reject contributions from the fossil fuel industry and its executives.   Eight activists were arrested as part of this sit-in demonstration.
Also in August 2018, over 30 Sunrise activists participated in a seven-hour sit-in demonstration at the office of California Governor Jerry Brown (D).  The demonstration led to six arrests.
In November 2018, shortly after the midterm elections, approximately 150 members of Sunrise and Justice Democrats organized a sit-in protest inside Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office at the U.S. Capitol.  Newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) joined the activists inside Pelosi’s office. The U.S. Capitol Police arrested 51 protesters for “unlawfully demonstrating in the Cannon House Office Building” and charges including crowding, obstructing, and incommoding.  
In December 2018, more than 1,000 Sunrise activists staged another round of sit-in demonstrations at the Capitol. Protesters targeted nearly 50 Congressional offices, including Democratic U.S. Representatives Steny Hoyer and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), both of whom have been accused by Sunrise of accepting campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, energy groups, and oil executives.  Police arrested nearly 150 protesters during this demonstration.
On February 26, 2019, Sunrise organized a nationwide “day of action” to advocate for the Green New Deal legislation.  Activities mainly included protesting or visiting Congressional members’ offices in both Washington, D.C. and their respective home districts. Additional sponsors of the day of action included other leftist groups such as Peoples Climate Movement, Climate Hawks Vote, Democracy for America, Franciscan Action Network, CREDO Action, and Power Shift Network. 
In late March 2019, Sunrise plans to organize a “Green New Deal Tour,” hosting town halls in 15 cities nationwide to “activate millions” of Americans to support the Green New Deal legislation.  Sunrise is targeting states such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky as part of their tour. 
In March 2020, Sunrise announced it would be starting an online training program called “the Sunrise School.” Starting officially on March 23, the program will release a series of training courses to teach students and attendees on how to organize and push for a Green New Deal during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  One of its first courses, titled “Crash Course: Coronavirus and Green New Deal,” would specifically focus on discussing what the Green New Deal is and how it “fits into the coronavirus crisis.”  In addition, the program will be releasing similar training programs throughout March and April to discuss other topics such as climate change, skill workshops, and how to continue organizing and growing movements online to advocate for similar legislation. 
On January 9, 2020, the Sunrise Movement officially endorsed the 2020 presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT).   On April 8, 2020, Sanders announced he would be suspending his presidential campaign. In an interview with Boston-based WBUR-FM Radio, Varshini Prakash discussed Sen. Sanders’ decision, saying, “We’re feeling disappointed, and at the same time, I do believe, you know, the best way to honor the legacy of the campaign that Bernie Sanders ran and honor the legacy of the millions of people who volunteered and voted for him, is to continue to fight for the bold and compassionate vision that he had for America.” 
Sunrise played a significant role in the early days of Joe Biden’s presidency. In February 2020, the Hill reported that Sunrise had been in “regular contact” with Biden administration officials as the president delivered on key environmentalist priorities, issuing executive orders to halt the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and ban fracking on federal lands. Sunrise press secretary Ellen Sciales praised Biden for listening to the group’s concerns, calling the early moves “a great step forward.” 
Opposition to Nuclear Energy
Nuclear power plants produce no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions, and as of 2021 accounted for 20 percent of American electricity production—the largest source of zero carbon electricity in the United States.  An October 2018 proposal from The Nature Conservancy noted that zero-carbon nuclear plants produced 7.8 of total world energy output and recommended reducing carbon emissions by increasing nuclear capacity to 33 percent of total world energy output. 
The Sunrise Movement was one of more than 600 co-signing organizations on a January 2019 open letter to Congress titled “Legislation to Address the Urgent Threat of Climate Change.” The signatories declared their support for new laws to bring about “100 percent decarbonization” of the transportation sector but denounced nuclear power as an example of “dirty energy” that should not be included in any legislation promoting the use of so-called “renewable energy.” 
“Defund the Police” Training Course
In July 2020, the Sunrise Movement co-organized a 4-day “crash course” to train activists in “how to turn the mandate to ‘Defund the Police’ into tangible action.” Other organizers included Mijente, DSA Afrosocialists (a branch of the far-left Democratic Socialists of America), Southerners on New Ground (SONG), and Dream Defenders. According to Sunrise, the course’s goals included: 
Understand what exactly the demand “Defund the Police” means
Envision what a world without police could look like
Get ready to take action to defund police in your community
Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act (HR 4447)
In September 2020, Sunrise was one of 100 environmentalist organizations that opposed the Democratic-led Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act (HR 4447) because while it pushed environmental regulations, it did not directly restrict fossil fuel production.  The organizations sent a letter to Congress that accused legislators of sacrificing communities to climate change, and said that the bill offered false solutions to the “climate crises across [the] country and world.” 
Firing of Alex O’Keefe
In June 2021, former creative director of the Sunrise Movement Alex O’Keefe claimed that he had been fired for accusing his colleagues of ignoring the demands of African American members and being beholden to self-interested donors. O’Keefe, who is African American himself, wrote on Twitter that his experience at the Sunrise Movement had been “a hellish battle to transform white-savior, socialism-averse messaging” and that billionaires only donate to the organization because “there are South American [and] African countries to pillage for lithium and other resources necessary for Green energy.”  Sunrise Movement executive director, Varshini Prakash, took issue with O’Keefe’s statements, tweeting that O’Keefe was fired simply because he “had not showed up to work in months.” 
2021 White House Protests
On June 28, 2021, the Sunrise Movement led a march outside of the White House in Washington, D.C. to protest the five-year, $579 billion infrastructure plan President Joe Biden negotiated with Republican lawmakers.  Attendees carried signs that referred to the president as a “coward” and demanded more investments in green energy and a Civilian Climate Corps, a government program that would guarantee jobs to combat climate change.  Protestors formed a blockade around all entrances to the White House grounds, and reports indicate that dozens of protestors were arrested as a result. 
Letter Encouraging the U.S. to “Cooperate” with China
On July 7, 2021, Sunrise along with 47 other organizations signed a letter to President Biden and the U.S. Congress accusing the United States of approaching China with “an antagonistic posture.”  The letter claims that “escalating, bipartisan anti-China rhetoric […] bolsters racist, right-wing movements in the United States,” and that the “U.S. demonization of China has always been a major barrier to progress in global climate talks.”  The letter urges the United States to cooperate with the Chinese government, despite its record of humans rights abuses, to “address the existential threat that is the climate crises.” The letter also cites statistics on U.S. and Chinese greenhouse gas emissions and criticizes the U.S. for being “the biggest carbon polluter in history.” 
Cancelled Training Session with pro-Hong Kong Activist
In June 2021, the Sunrise Movement cancelled its “Lessons From Hong Kong: Taking Action in the Uprisings for Black Lives” digital training session after opposition from “self-styled communists on Twitter.” The event would have featured a digital testimony from Johnson Yeung, an anti-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) activist involved in protesting the CCP’s control over Hong Kong. A spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement said that “People inside and outside of the movement raised concerns about this call,” and that the event was cancelled to allow the Sunrise Movement to stay “100% focused on showing up for Black lives.” 
Reporters at Business Insider claimed that opposition to the event came from far-left CCP apologists on Twitter, and that one month before the event was cancelled the CCP had been caught in a “major influence operation on Twitter” using fake accounts to spread pro-CCP statements and disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Evan Weber, founder of Sunrise
- Cristina DuQue, student organizer for the Sierra Student Coalition and a former student organizer for 350.org
- Betamia Coronel, national organizer for 350.org
- Catherine Kunkul, co-chair of the West Virginia Working Families Party and a consultant with Kunkel Energy Research
In 2018, Sunrise reported total revenues of $584,235, total expenditures of $412,722, and net assets of $218,094. 
Sunrise Movement’s 2017 Form 990-EZ (an abridged version for nonprofits with small nonprofits) was obtained by the Capital Research Center in March 2019 is available here. According to its 2017 IRS filing, Sunrise earned $72,902 in 2017 and had $31,210 in expenditures. 
The Sunrise Movement Education Fund filed a return with the IRS (Form 990) in 2016. According to the disclosure, the group raised approximately $113,000 from grants and contributions in 2016.  That was up from approximately $65,000 in grants and contributions in 2015. 
According to corporate filings, Sunrise Movement Education Fund is a registered and active organization in the District of Columbia.  It was formally created in January 2014 and has a current address of 50 F St. NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20001. According to public records, Evan Weber, Michael Dorsey, Becca Rast, and Guido Girgenti are listed as governors of the organization, with Weber listed as CEO.
Only filings for Sunrise Movement Education Fund were located in the District of Columbia’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs database; no results were found relating to Sunrise Movement.