The People’s Climate Change March

Vanessa W. Lynch, @drvonskillet


Sunday’s march in NYC is being called the largest climate change action to ever happen in this country. Too bad that it was also one of the least radical.

The final estimate of people in the city was 400,000 but I’d put the number at closer to half a million. The crowd of bodies went back for at least two miles! Unfortunately they still had no concept of autonomy. Despite these record numbers nothing was actually accomplished.

Monday’s “Flood Wall Street” gathering which promised to be a much more assertive gathering of people actually moving onto a power center (Wall Street) and demanding change (end Capitalism, protect the environment) was hardly publicized and as many people came from all over the country, people did not have the opportunity to stay for this event. Final count for this march was over 2,000 and over 100 people were arrested.

As is usual with rallies in New York, the police had set up barricades between the street and the sidewalk to create small pens for people to stand in. This time they happened to be a bit wider, but ultimately they were still there. Sure enough, when 3:30 rolled around and the permit for “The People’s March” expired, the cops rolled in on their big vans and herded people to hurry towards the end of the march.The end, which was a much larger penned in section of 34th street for people to … mull around.

We made it — to the end of the block!

A highlight of the march was The People’s Power Stage, sponsored by the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective. Shortly after people converged on this stage the organizers shut off the mic because the crowd around the stage (which was majority young, black, and indigenous) was taking up too much space and walkers couldn’t get by to the end of the march. What a damn shame. This was a powerful moment and without the mic, Rodstarz took a moment of silence to remember Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Mike Brown and others killed by police brutality.




With this many people we could have done anything.
We could have marched into the UN. We could have shut down Wall Street. We could have decommissioned Indian Point reactor ourselves. But instead we pat each other on the back and went home to review our photos of this historic event.

We were herded like sheep! This mass of people stopped at stop signs and paused at red lights and cops, with large blue ropes, guided people when to walk and when to stay. In any other country in the world these numbers would have seen more movement. People in the US majority are still on a deeper level of colonial denial. Rather than moving to declare autonomy of self and disregarding the authority figures that helped get us in this trouble in the first place, these folks waited around for cops to tell them when to walk and when to stay.

What is the power of the people when the people continually refuse to acknowledged or utilize that power! Then it is only a waste!

Undoubtedly this walk was powerful. It connected folks. It was fun. It was beautiful. I sincerely hope that it was a tool to further the growing culture of resistance and not simply a history photo bomb.
“This was the largest march in US History for Climate Change.”

I hope I see this many numbers in October for the Month of Resistance to End Mass Incarceration.
I hope I see this many numbers this May for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
I hope all these folks are not back home relaxing with all of their lights on, forgetting why they came out.

In speaking to the disconnect and the lack of recognition of the power of the people I want to briefly mention the trash situation. After the march 150,000 empty starbucks cups were found lining the walk route as well as overflowing containers of trash, including left behind paper signs. It speaks to this Western concept of wanting immediate results, rather than putting in work for change. Showing up for one day is not revolution or change. This western concept of healing, or movement that comes from isolating a problem, rather than taking a step back to understand the larger picture. One march, one pill, one moment will not have a lasting effect, and will only treat the products and symptoms of a larger illness, rather than addressing the actual illness. Capitalism didn’t get to North America in a day. Colonization didn’t happen in a day. These systems that we are all living in took a long time to get into power, and will take a long time to undo. To re-create a lifestyle based on health, equality, and respect is something that will take time, and demands that we look intimitaely at ourselves and at the roles that we play in participating in such systems. It’s not marching for a day – it’s continuously being conscious of your actions and lifestyle choices. This is the revolution that is necessary.

Something that gives me hope is that almost all of the *young* people I talked to at the walk had a similar feeling; that we should be doing much more.
I do not want to de-legitimize the power of recalling half a million (because I know it was more than 400k) people together in the street to reclaim public space because that it is wonderful! I do not want to de-legitimize the power of festival and of celebration.
I do want to remember that by 3pm when the permit was up the cops rolled out in their vans, pushing the walk faster toward the end of our large cage, hurrying us out. I do want to remember that the walk took place on Sunday when the UN was not actually in session and many of these politicians who are meant to be representing us and who will be making the ‘official decisions’ on what comes next were not with us, nor were they forced to hear the demands of the masses.
I do want to remember that Flood Wall Street got hardly any publicity and over 100 people got arrested;  what would it have been like for the cops to try and arrest over 400 thousand people?

The power of the march comes in what happens next.
Another thing that terrifies me is the continual mention by officials of carbon emissions as the most important piece in this climate change puzzle. It’s not. Nuclear power has no emissions and is looking like the next big player for these green corporations. We have to focus on more than reducing carbon emissions – this is going to take an entirely different way of living, and an acknowledgement of the inherent racism in the idea that these Politicans or corporations for some reason have any kind of right to determine what happens on indigenous land.

The way I see it this walk can mean one of two things – a massive victory for the upsurge in re-building an enormous culture of resistance for the people in the U.S. and the world, a culture where more and more, people are reminded of the power of their voice and are inspired to take the streets and declare what they want; or the second largest and most beautifully co-opted march in American history next to the March on Washington. In listening to the March on Washington as described by Malcolm X, the pattern that emerges is incredibly similar – people are full of rage and make known their intentions to take back the street and demand change and the government and their non-profits step in to re-divert the message and co-opt the movement.


Power to the People means that The People have The Power.
Seriously, y’all, the sooner you remember this, the sooner we see change.


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