50,000 at Forward On Climate Rally in DC
This photo-essay was originally published in Truth-Out.org
by Zach D Roberts, The Mudflats New York Bureau Chief
A reported 50,000 people attended the 350/Sierra Club rally yesterday in Washington DC – making it the largest environmental march in decades.
There were also dozens of smaller rallies across the country, including in Los Angeles, San Diego and St. Louis.
The action in DC drew in people from around the country – Jim and Bonnie, full-time climate activists both took the train from Portland, Oregon. They held a sign that called on the President to be true to his own words “We cannot afford more of the same timid politics when the future of our planet is at stake.”
At the speakers podium Native leaders from Canada and the US spoke out against the Tar Sands and the pipeline – calling both nation’s leaders to task for not hearing their concerns. Chief Jackie Thomas of the frog clan at Saik’uz (in British Columbia) warned that “Oil will spill, it always does.” She went on to thank Enbridge, the company contracted to create much of the Keystone XL pipeline. “Never have I seen white and Native work together… thank you Enbridge.”
She ended her speech to the crowd amassed in the shadow of the Washington Monument, “I’m here to ask you, we need your help, I need someone to stand with me when the bulldozers come.” At that the crowd cheered.
There was no civil disobedience planned for the day – though earlier in the week several protesters, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr, Bill McKibben, and Daryl Hannah were arrested in front of the White House. DC Police reported they had no plans to arrest anyone during the action. About a dozen members of Occupy from DC and from New York did poke and prod at the police to arrest them – standing on the White House fence and declaring ‘We’re BACK’ and asking if Obama wanted to come out and talk to them.
He seemingly had no interest, or was otherwise occupied.
The Occupy protesters did have many words for him though- demanding that he stop the pipeline immediately, take action on climate change – make a real living wage instead of his $9 an hour proposal at the State of the Union, among other things (some not suitable for print). Earlier, members of Occupy Sandy marched around the White House with the 350.org and Sierra Club members – making the connection between the hurricane that devastated much of the East Coast and the climate.
Unlike many protests of late (thanks to the promise of no police action), there were a great number of younger protesters. On the bus that I took down from New York (organized by 350.org and Sierra Club), a 14-year old boy was celebrated for his first protest, and his first visit to DC . He was joined by his parents. No doubt the celebs speaking helped bring some of the younger crowd as well – Rosario Dawson spoke out against fracking, and Modern Family’s Nolan Gould (Sierra Club Youth Ambassador) appeared on stage with Evangeline Lilly. Evangeline spoke briefly – apologizing for Canada digging up the Tar Sands, and for pushing the pipeline.
US Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who received some of the biggest applause, had these words to rally his audience – “The polluters don’t want you here … they’ve got the politicians in their pocket … until you showed up.”
On the way back to New York the protesters on Bus #4 (the one with the sign that said “girls varsity basketball”) shared stories of their local actions, and swapped e-mail addresses. Someone made the announcement that the protest had made it on to the front page of both The Huffington Post and The New York Times websites. Even though a good number of the crowd was young – enough of them, at least on this bus, were old enough to remember the protests of the Bush years that garnered no press, or at best coverage that drastically under-reported attendance numbers – so they took these as victories.
The New York Times though, did cite the attendance as “in the thousands.”
Zach D. Roberts is a photojournalist whose work has been seen in The Guardian, Truthout, BBC Television and Portfolio.com. Roberts broke the story of how the Koch Brothers are working together with the religious right in TheMudflats.net last October.