Activists Swarm City Streets To Protest Pollution
By Clifford Michel
On September 21, nearly 400,000 protestors from 1,572 organizations marched across Central Park West from Columbus Circle down to 34th Street, marking the largest demonstration against climate change in history.
The climate march was meant to show a demand to improve the climate as over 150 Heads of State were set to meet at the United Nations to address environmental issues. The march in NYC was planned alongside 2,808 different demonstrations in 166 different countries.
In early July, the Sierra Student Coalition, a nationwide network of college clubs focused on environmental protection, reached out to CUNY students to organize a university wide presence.
“The climate march is just so big, and the fact that Heads of State are coming and not just negotiators is a really big deal,” said Marcela Corro, a junior marketing major at Baruch College who helped organize CUNY students for the march.
The Professional Staff Congress of CUNY, the union that represents faculty and staff at the university, created a committee to aid in mobilizing the march, which brought out over 200 members to participate.
Among the protestors were multiple students and organizers from the College of Staten Island on behalf of NYPIRG (New York Public Interest Research Group). Students worked throughout the summer and the beginning of the school year to recruit for the march. Organizers from the borough cited the havoc of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 as inspiration for the march.
“In Staten Island especially we’ve seen it firsthand, Hurricane Sandy devastated the borough. These sort of storms that we never saw years ago, there’s a fear that we’re going to see them even more if we don’t do something about it now,” said Ben DeAngelis, the NYPIRG Project Coordinator at CSI. “This is a good opportunity to show massive support for change, I just talked to someone from Maine and it shows how many people care. It’s important that this is not a standalone event, we’re going to galvanize a lot of support and hopefully we can lobby for real change and get policy in place.”
The rally drew several high profile participants, including Mayor Bill De Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, three United States Senators, three United States Representatives, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Mark Ruffalo.
The day after the march, a smaller group of demonstrators surrounded the Wall Street Bull during “Flood Wall Street” event. Approximately 3,000 protestors wore all blue as they gathered at Battery Park and marched to the Financial District were they began a mass sit-in. The event was meant to push corporations to find green solutions. After the Stock Exchange’s closing bell, the NYPD arrested a little over 100 protestors.
“Our goal was to connect climate change to Wall Street and amplify stories from the front lines. We definitely did that. We did it by disrupting business as usual in the heart of the world’s most important financial center,” said Flood Wall Street organizer, Yotam Marom.
Following the string of demonstrations, President Obama announced a series of initiatives during the UN’s Climate Summit on September 23. Obama announced an executive order to mandate that federal agencies factor environmental sustainability when designing new international development program. He also urged heads of states to act in unison, noting that no nation is immune to the effects of climate change.
“Today, I call on all countries to join us—not next year, or the year after, but right now, because no nation can meet this global threat alone. The United States has also engaged more allies and partners to cut carbon pollution and prepare for the impacts we cannot avoid,” said Obama.
After his meeting at the U.N., Obama attended the Clinton Global Initiative at the Sheraton Hotel where he was met by a small group of Anti-fracking activists outside the hotel urging the President to stop supporting the use of natural gas.