'Climate Change Is Class War': Flood Wall Street Takes Over Financial District

'Climate Change Is Class War': Flood Wall Street Takes Over Financial District
Photo by C.S. Muncy for the Village Voice

In a harder-edged follow-up to yesterday's massive People's Climate March, a couple thousand people took part in "Flood Wall Street" today; dressed in blue, they marched from Battery Park to the Financial District, staging a sit-in in the area around the Wall Street Bull. As of 2:30 p.m., two people had been arrested. The organizers tweeted that they weren't planning on moving any time soon:

The morning began at Battery Park with speeches from prominent activists and journalists, including Naomi Klein and Chris Hedges, although the wind frequently carried their words away. People held signs reading "Stop Climate Chaos, Flood Wall Street." Organizers in blue shirts reading "Civil Disobedience Instructor" gave primers on what to do in case marchers were arrested. Near the water, a team inflated two enormous silver "carbon bubbles," giant silver and black balls. (The idea of a carbon bubble was coined by journalist Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone; it refers to the idea that energy companies are over-investing in fossil fuel-based technologies, leading to an inevitable crash when those finite resources run out.)

Flood Wall Street was created after a group called the Climate Justice Alliance called for "non-violent direct action" against companies whose business practices they believe harm the earth.

"The climate march was a phenomenal get-together," says Andrew Ross, an NYU professor of social and cultural analysis and a Flood Wall Street participant. "It was very harmonious. But the changes that are necessary here aren't going to come about without disruption."

Besides that, he added, "We're here to re-establish that in New York, there's a right to protest in the streets. That right was denied to us in the Bloomberg era. This is a test for the new mayor, whether or not civil liberties will be upheld."

After two hours of speeches and preparations at Battery Park, the march started to inch forward toward Broad Street. Almost immediately, it halted; someone had realized there were only white men holding the "Flood Wall Street" banner. More women and people of color came to the front of crowd and grabbed hold of it. The marchers proceeded out of Battery Park, the carbon bubbles carried aloft by dozens of hands.

The police seemed to think the march was going to head up Broad Street, and were trying to direct the marchers that way. (At the Trump Building a few blocks away, mounted police officers were awaiting their arrival.) Instead, in a sudden whipsaw motion, the crowd pivoted toward Broadway, where they streamed into the traffic triangle around the Wall Street Bull. They unfurled several massive banners and sat down. Several red double-decker tour buses were suddenly stalled in the crowd; peeved tourists peered over the side, looking baffled.

"One, two, three, four, climate change is class war!" people chanted. "Five, six, seven, eight, frack Wall Street and smash the state!"

'Climate Change Is Class War': Flood Wall Street Takes Over Financial District
Photo by Anna Merlan

The carbon bubbles bounced around the crowd, passed from hand to hand. The wind gusted one of them toward a group of NYPD officers, who grabbed it and popped it with gusto. The crowd booed. A few minutes later, the group tried to roll the second carbon bubble up the length of one of the banners, to pass it to the front of the large crowd. The wind took that one away, too. Again, the police grabbed it and, rather merrily, flattened it.

 

'Climate Change Is Class War': Flood Wall Street Takes Over Financial District
Photo by C.S. Muncy

Around 12:30, an NYPD arrest bus pulled up, trailed by several vans. Using the "people's mic" system (everyone repeating after him), one organizer yelled: "The police have an arrest team that way, with buses and vans with room for about 300 people. If the police begin to arrest you, we're advocating that everyone begin to sit down in that area. There's also a suggestion that people sit down in streets and not let traffic flow. We have over 1,000 people sitting down, and we'd like to ask everyone here to sit in on Wall Street, hold the space, and face arrest."

The traffic briefly opened up on one side of the Bull so the stalled tour buses could move. They whizzed down the street; a few protesters in blue shirts had hopped on. They waved to the crowd. Everyone waved back. An older man in a white beard tried to lead a call to occupy a different part of the Financial District; no one seemed to know who he was, and a group of organizers quickly signaled that everyone should ignore him. He kept trying to shout over them; a group of activist musicians, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, made sad trombone noises as he talked.

By 2:30, the NYPD had arrested two people. Newsweek reporter Zoë Schlanger witnessed the arrests:

After that, another long period of calm ensued. Police officers with ziptie handcuffs stood at the south end of the march, while the north was guarded by a group of glum-looking officers on motorcycles. A line of barricades prevented anyone from entering Wall Street or Pine Street, a block north.

At 3 p.m., the mood of the march was still mellow, even celebratory. Still, some protesters seemed disappointed.

"I'm going to leave," one said to his friend. "Because this is getting boring."

We'll let you know when that changes.

'Climate Change Is Class War': Flood Wall Street Takes Over Financial District
Photo by C.S. Muncy

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