REPORT FROM THE PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH
“A healthy movement has lots of creativity,” Judy commented as we walked down New York’s 42nd Street toward the conclusion of the People’s Climate March. By that measure, the movement to reverse climate change is pretty healthy.
Today’s march featured lots of costumes, chants, street theatre, props, dances, puppets, and marching bands as well as slogans galore on banners and signs, many of them hand-made. Many marchers carried signs that read “I’m marching for…” with a blank space each person could fill. Organizations also brought printed placards for their members to carry to spread their own messages.
“To Change Everything We Need Everyone” was an official slogan printed on hand-hed silk-screened banners and large ones carried high above the marchers. Vanessa Simwerayi, for whom this was her first big march, said she was impressed with the big flat screen displays at several intersections showing solidarity marches taking place all across the world. “Climate is something everybody has to face,” said Vanessa’s brother, Addy. Marchers were more diverse in age than race, but it can certainly be said that the climate issue is getting significant attention from an aroused public.
Slogans and chants gave more attention to fracking and tar sands than any other issue, at least in the sections of the march I observed. I was glad to see a couple groups of marchers with banners calling attention to northern New England’s local tar sands threat, the prospect that the Portland-Montreal pipeline could be re-purposed to carry tar sands-derived oil for Montreal to South Portland, Maine.
Addy Simwerayi said he was pleased to see local community groups calling attention to other social justice issues.
Without a rally at the beginning or end of the march, it was impossible to see or feel the size of the crowd. It also meant that the march’s message was delivered through the aggregation of varied messages rather than the words of official spokespeople.
Stretching for blocks along Central Park West, marchers assembled in good spirits waiting for the procession’s late start. Our section of the march didn’t start to move until about 2 pm. Eventually the march started down the avenue and chugged along in high-spirited fits and starts for a couple of hours, down Central Park West, east on 59th Street, South on Sixth Avenue, and west on 42nd Street to its conclusion on 11th Ave. Volunteer ‘peacekeepers” wearing orange t-shirts were dispersed through the crowd to provide information and intervene in the case of unpleasantness. Unless you count a guy with a battery-powered P/A system haranguing marchers that they should be attending to homelessness and the perils of tobacco instead of the climate, I didn’t see any unpleasantness.
For most of the route marchers occupied the width of the major streets and avenues, with metal barricades separating marchers from pedestrians and onlookers. New York police were very much in evidence, but didn’t have much to do other than keep their barricades intact.
The New Hampshire contingent was organized largely by 350 NH, the local arm of the international action group. Riding back on the bus, fellow travelers with internet access reported march organizers were saying there had been more than 300,000 marchers. From her seat on the bus, Sarah Hubner commented, “I just hope somebody was listening.”