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A Lively Atmosphere at the People’s Climate March

climate march

The People’s Climate March featured a diverse amount of people and groups with major themes scattered throughout the march under the banner of environmentalism.

With the United Nations General Assembly occurring two days later, organizers hoped to create an event to raise awareness through the efforts of those in attendance.

“We want to make sure the People’s Climate March tells the story of today’s climate movement in all its parts – so we’re trying something new, and arranging the contingents of the march in a way that helps us thread our many messages together,” their website states.

Originally, it was guessed the attendance would be from 100,000 to 200,000, however more than 400,000 were estimated after the march. This is significant ahead of the meeting on Tuesday.

It should be noted, despite the reference to Occupy Wall Street, the People’s Climate March was approved by the New York Police Department one month ago. In fact, as the main page notes, this was going on for months. Officers were stationed at every block with police dogs and vans at the ready.

Still, the event began official at 10:00 am with a press conference featuring speakers like community organizer Elizabeth Yeampierre, activist Mari Rose Taruc and Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, who will speak at the UN tomorrow on the necessity of action.

One speaker, Bill Aristovolus, an energy superintendent affected by Hurricane Sandy and member of 32BJ SEIU, stated buildings in New York City contributed to 74 percent of the city’s emissions.

“If we can change what’s spewing out from our buildings, [then] we can impact of what’s happening to our air. We might have a chance of slowing down global warming,” Aristovolus said.

Aristovolus told Firedoglake the heating system is what causes buildings to emit so much. Yet, he noted it was possible to modify the system and it was better to turn to alternative systems.

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A Lively Atmosphere at the People’s Climate March

climate march

The People’s Climate March featured a diverse amount of people and groups with major themes scattered throughout the march under the banner of environmentalism.

With the United Nations General Assembly occurring two days later, organizers hoped to create an event to raise awareness through the efforts of those in attendance.

“We want to make sure the People’s Climate March tells the story of today’s climate movement in all its parts – so we’re trying something new, and arranging the contingents of the march in a way that helps us thread our many messages together.” their website states.

Originally, it was guessed the attendance would be from 100,000 to 200,000, however more than 400,000 were estimated after the march. This is significant ahead of the meeting on Tuesday.

It should be noted, despite the reference to Occupy Wall Street, the People’s Climate March was approved by the New York Police Department one month ago. In fact, as the main page notes, this was going on for months. Officers were stationed at every block with police dogs and vans at the ready.

Still, the event began official at 10:00 am with a press conference featuring speakers like community organizer Elizabeth Yeampierre, activist Mari Rose Taruc and Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, who will speak at the UN tomorrow on the necessity of action.

One speaker, Bill Aristovolus, an energy superintendent affected by Hurricane Sandy and member of 32BJ SEIU, stated buildings in New York City contributed to 74 percent of the city’s emissions.

“If we can change what’s spewing out from our buildings, [then] we can impact of what’s happening to our air. We might have a chance of slowing down global warming.” Aristovolus said.

Aristovolus told Firedoglake the heating system is what causes buildings to emit so much. Yet, he noted it was possible to modify the system and it was better to turn to alternative systems.

In addition, the march represented how people were aware of what was happening compared to the U.S. government, which he said was not doing enough in terms of climate change.

“Quite honestly, America is way behind. In Europe, traditionally, gas was $10 equivalent a gallon. They don’t have a choice.” Aristovolus told Firedoglake.

After the press conference, demonstrators got ready to march in their respective sections. In total, there were six sections but it seemed people generally went into what they felt was best. Indeed, Brian Baglioni, one protester, said it was inspiring to see others with the same sign and message even if it was different in the approach.

“It’s always great to have different opinions. It’s okay for people to show up with a different cause as long as it doesn’t go against unity.” Baglioni said.

Nonetheless, journalist Arun Gupta criticized the march for changing the structure of the march with money as the central point of everything.

There is no unity other than money. One veteran activist who was involved in Occupy Wall Street said it was made known there was plenty of money to hire her and others. There is no sense of history: decades of climate-justice activism are being erased by the incessant invocation of the ‘biggest climate change demonstration ever.’

It should be noted there were elements of anti-capitalist groups, called “anti-corporate” by the organizers, within the movement. It is expected considering recent discussion of capitalism within the movement and its taboo nature.

Still, for a movement that uses a slogan of “to change everything, we need everyone,” it seems like an invitation for anti-capitalist groups to contribute to the movement.

Within the streets where activists were getting ready, there were floats, balloons, artistic pieces and even flags waved around. From 60 St. to 86 St., demonstrators waited for hours as observers and other activists walked by on the sidewalk.

Bystanders, such as Debbie, a NYC parks employee, criticized the movement for not including more in terms of getting corporations involved as well as the issue of not focusing on littering. In addition, Darren Luquis, a doorman, told Firedoglake he supported the message, but felt it was better suited for China.

“This would make a bigger impact in China. We’re becoming very green and conscious of what to do but we need to push it on them as well.” Luquis said.

Mike May from Peace Action of Staten Island felt the march itself provided enough to show the U.S. government how much of an impact citizens can be have.

“This is what we need to hold our government accountable. Government policy is set by ruling elites who represent the corporate state that goes against the public interest.” May said.

From issues ranging from anti-GMOs to alternative energy to oil-by-trains, Palestine was one issues included in the march and was brought up ahead of it as well.

On the night before the protest, during a panel featuring Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges, Kshama Sawant and Bernie Sanders, Sanders was interrupted in his speech by a sign displayed by two activists on his vote to side with Israel during the bombings of Gaza. Furthermore, journalist Max Blumenthal asked Sanders a question after the event about his stance on Gaza. He walked away.

The inclusion of the cohort of activists for Palestine in the march began, according to journalist Gabriel Schivone, in response to the number of pro-Zionists groups at the march. The organizers of the march strongly believed in allowing any group to join in, which can best be found in one of their advertisements.

Murad Awawdeh, part of the cohort of activists expressing solidarity with Palestine, told Firedoglake about the hypocrisy of environmentalists standing with the environment, but not with Palestinians.

“Human rights are pivotal in climate justice. The most vulnerable are the folks who demand climate justice because they are the most impacted. Palestinians will be greatly impacted by climate change because every bombed piece of land means land they cannot grow food on, which means they will have food shortages. No water means they won’t have anything to drink.” Awawdeh said.

Chants such as “What does democracy looks like? This is what democracy looks like!” could be heard throughout the march. It was a lively atmosphere as drums, guitar and even speakers were used to connect activists through the power of song as NYPD helicopters flew overhead.

Mainstream media outlets barely devoted time on TV to the march itself the day of and outlets like CNN may have covered it considering how close by they were to the march itself. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting questioned what would make such news stations cover the protest considering how close it was to the UN General Assembly.

Members of The Great March for Climate Action were apart of overall demonstration. They currently are marching starting from Los Angeles, Calif., to Washington D.C. over a six month period. Berenice Tompkins felt the movement provided energy much needed in the environmental movement.

“I feel so incredibly exhilarated and excited. We have needed a movement this large for about 30 years and obviously we needed a movement much larger. Yet, this is going to going to grow. When people start connecting to each other and learn about this, it just has a ripple effect.” Tompkins said.

Ahead of the UN talks on Tuesday, Tompkins felt world leaders would recognize a “sense of responsibility” when entering into the main discussions for an agreement.

“In order for this to be solved politically, it would require an unprecedented level of international cooperation. Right now, it isn’t looking like that’s going to happen,” she said. “It looks like we have to take this in our hands.”

Despite all the noise of the demonstrators, everything became silent at 12:58 p.m. as the two minutes of silence for those affected by the environment began. Many lifted their hands in the air as well. A protester said how “fascinating” it was to see something like that.

The diverse messages of the march could be found throughout the sidewalk as well. Jay Brooks, who held an “End Capitalism” sign, believed the capitalist system was a major theme the protest should focus on considering the role of resources being a commodity in the system.

“I think this movement is much larger than what you see represented at the march. Capitalism definitely plays a role in why those elements are not being represented here. There is that interest in keeping the more radical elements out because there are corporate sponsors.” Brooks said.

As Anne Petermann, executive director of Global Justice Ecology Project, noted in a post about the march, some groups promoted the march like The Climate Group, while affiliated with major corporations on Wall Street.

Lockheed Martin, another sponsor of Climate March NYC, is financially tied with the U.S. military. Climate March NYC promoted numerous events ahead of the UN Climate Summit and included Lockheed Martin as a “platinum sponsor.

The role of corporations within the People’s Climate March questioned the effectiveness of such a movement considering the role corporations with the environment

“So we have a corporate-designed protest march to support a corporate-dominated world body to implement a corporate policy to counter climate change caused by the corporations of the world, which are located just a few miles away but which will never feel the wrath of the People’s Climate March.” Gupta wrote in his article.

It also highlights how #FloodWallStreet filled a void for some within the movement unsatisfied and thought the target should extend to those in power. In fact, there is a correlation between those who emit carbon emissions and the rich in society.

While there was the element of containing the mood, Stephanie Sucasaca, a member of Socialist Alternative and demonstrator, emphasized the positives of the march for activists.

“On the flip side of that, it really demonstrates how much awareness and consciousness there is about the environment. Look around, there’s kids, there’s families, there’s older folk, there’s youth, so it’s amazing.” Sucasaca.

As the protest continued toward 42nd St, protesters were led through a pre-determined path with NYPD officers at every corner with double barricades blocking the sidewalk from the road. They were very strict in restricting access to bystanders to enter the street.

Before the march in the morning, with the double barricades already set up very early in the morning, one person jumped over one of the barricades to greet a friend. Officers yelled at the person for crossing the barricade.

Near the end of the march, and before the block party, some marchers left the scene to either go home or meet with someone else. By 4:00 p.m., some official organizers came to tell activists how attendance surpassed expectations with their initial estimate of more than 310,000.

Neneh Switaila, an activist who came down from Massachusetts, decided to join to People’s Climate March due to her commitment in environment issues.

“I really enjoyed it. I’m very impressed by the number of people that were here. I wasn’t sure what to expect that it could have but it’s been a great experience.” Switaila said.

While Switaila was unsure as to where the movement may go next, Rebecca Halbrook told Firedoglake how activists could bring the energy of the event back to their own towns.

“This is not a one day statement. This is going to propel the movement forward. More people will be engaged and maybe there will have to be another movement. People will take this back home to their local places and work on their local issues with more enthusiasm and more determination.” Halbrook said.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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