Climate change activists representing a sprawling coalition of more than 500 groups vowed Wednesday at a Times Square press conference to deliver the largest climate change protest in history when world leaders gather in New York in September.
The People’s Climate March — scheduled for September 21 — will occur in Manhattan two days before a United Nations summit aimed at spurring progress on a global climate treaty. That meeting will try to jump-start talks on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for increasing global temperatures.
At Wednesday’s press conference, about 200 people, waving banners from labor unions, environmental groups and community-based organizations, crowded together on bleachers at the north end of Times Square. Organizers are looking for the turnout at September’s march to far surpass a 2013 climate change demonstration in Washington, D.C., that drew as many as 50,000 people.
The march’s sponsoring organizations are already drumming up interest across the country. Many attendees will travel in groups to New York by bus or train.
Jamie Henn, a spokesperson for the environmental group 350.org, told The Indypendent that support for the march from so many different organizations represented a historic moment in the effort to combat climate change.
“Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the seeds of change come from,” he said, “but when you look back at successful movements in the past, they've really been able to operate in a new way when lots of different groups and movements find a common cause.”
Henn added that the march is not just about making climate change a top priority for world leaders, but is also about building a network of advocacy groups that recognize this as an issue that effects everyone.
LaTonya Crisp-Sauray, recording secretary for Transport Workers Union Local 100, which was one of four New York City unions represented at the press conference, said that climate change is an issue that affects all working people.
“I stand here as one of the people who move the trains and buses that move New York City,” she said. “We come together as laborers to say to the politicians and to the United Nations that we want clean air. We're tired of the fracking. We're tired of all the things that are destroying our communities, the hazards that we went through with [Hurricane] Sandy when those tunnels were flooded.”
Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of the environmental group GreenFaith, said that improving the lives of the communities impacted by climate change is the duty of all religious people. Harper’s organization has joined with churches from many different denominations as well as Jewish, Muslim and other faith leaders to promote the climate march.
“For people of faith, addressing climate change and getting a strong climate treaty is about love,” Harper said. “And so on behalf of faith communities across the country and around the world, people of faith on Sunday, September 21, will be praying and will be worshiping with their feet. They will be marching for a strong climate treaty.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the summit last year and invited world leaders from government, business and civil society to discuss a global agreement to reduce emissions and strengthen climate resilience. President Obama, who has been criticized for pursuing an “all of the above” strategy for developing energy resources, confirmed last week that he will attend.
“Make no mistake, [the march] is just a flashpoint, but it is the center of our hurricane,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director for the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance. “The march is going to be where we unite. But there's going to be all kinds of activities leading up to and then, maybe most importantly, after the march. We've got a tiger by the tail. We don't know exactly what it is but we do know we're going to be roaring after the march.”