Rising Up to Stop Climate Change: Solidarity and Diversity at the People’s Climate March

Photo credit: Diana DeLucca

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At the People’s Climate March in Manhattan this past Sunday, several hundred thousand marchers walked roughly seven blocks through a mild breeze under an overcast sky threatening rain. But few drops fell and spirits were high: in the line-up area the atmosphere was almost like a parade, with many school and church groups, environmental nonprofits, labor unions, political organizations, and groups of friends showing off coordinated outfits and displays, handing out newspapers, leaflets, buttons and stickers.

“Free candy? Free candy. Free candy?” A costumed man, looking slightly bewildered, held a big bowl of gummy hearts out to everyone he passed. A lone soap bubble floated out over the intersection of 72nd Street and Central Park West and the moist air was fragrant: somebody was burning sage.

The legendary Bread and Puppet Theater put on a delightful display, as did a group that brought a cycling dinosaur fossil with a motor oil-bottle spine, as did a lady with a giant cardboard owl on her head (not sure I got that one, but it was cool!).

In the Music Bloc, which was preceded by a line of pro-solar marchers who held up beautiful shimmering yellow flags, people passed out lyrics sheets and sang old favorites such as “We shall overcome” and “Whose side are you on?”

Photo Credit: Diana DeLucca. Check out all her photos in the slideshow below.
Photo Credit: Diana DeLucca. Check out all her photos in the slideshow below.

The smell of cooking meat from a couple of food trucks washed over a large unit of vegans, who held signs directing onlookers to abstain from animal products in order to slow climate change.

On the sidewalk alongside the music makers and the vegans and throughout the entire march was a very strong socialist presence—so strong, in fact, that one marcher dubbed it “Socialist Alley.” Anti-capitalist vibes permeated the march, and the word “revolution” was on many shirts, stickers, lips and signs. There was more racial diversity than I’ve observed at other environmental protests and a strong Native American presence.

Both the young and the old turned up in large numbers. “This is a way of addressing and encouraging grassroots efforts,” said Luisa Padilla of the Bronx, who was marching with a group of friends. “It’s inspiring me to make certain changes myself, just being here. We all need to make changes, from the top down and the bottom up.” Her friends nodded in agreement. “And there’s no excuse. There’s no way to say, ‘We didn’t know.’ To not do something—we all are responsible for the demise…” She fiddled with one of the plastic bottles that hung around her neck. “This is all from my house, by the way. I feel like I’m speaking for the future. For people who aren’t here.”

Aside from the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and a few other groups, there was a strikingly insignificant number of protesters appealing to our own government—whether people were concerned with issues of personal consumption, ending destructive methods of resource extraction, advocating for an alternative form of energy or promoting a certain political orientation, most protesters seemed to be trying to reach other protesters. For a demonstration that comes before a U.N. climate summit at which world leaders will discuss the upcoming Paris Accord on climate, this display seemed to be more about grassroots action and solutions than top-down reforms. Perhaps this reflects a bubbling-over of disenchantment with our elected officials and a growing realization that business as usual won’t cut it when it comes to cutting carbon—that there is a need for popular rebellion and profound structural change.

Yesterday, a vibrant follow-up rally of over 1,000 people  in the Financial District aimed to express just that message. Dressed in blue to symbolize the rising oceans, protesters aimed to “Flood Wall Street,” in order to suggest that our current economic system is a cause of climate change.

In other news, the Rockefellers, descendants of the famous oil robber-barons of a century ago, have decided to divest their charitable foundation—worth $860 million—of assets tied to fossil fuels.

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