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Flooding Wall Street with people power

Monday’s march from Battery Park near the waterfront to the financial district of New York and the sit-in near Wall Street was high energy and powerful. Acknowledging the connection between capitalism, big corporations and climate change is an important part of an effective movement for climate justice and that statement was made loudly and clearly today.

At Battery Park, Naomi Klein spoke about how this is an important opportunity to build on the work of Occupy Wall Street. She said that despite claims that Occupy did not succeed, that it blew open a debate about income inequality that continues to be much more openly discussed than it was before. She added “Now, we are back with the power of the water behind us. We will fight back like the earth itself is fighting back.” Speakers from frontline communities around the world including Brazil and Mali talked about the impacts of climate change in their communities. One of the speakers noted that the time to raise our voices was yesterday, and that today was the time to act. This is both a good message for this morning’s action, but also a good overall message for us to go home with. The crowd was so big that these speeches had to be repeated twice for the wider gathering to hear them.

The march from Battery Park began with a chant, “Decolonize the water, decolonize the land! We’re changing up the system! We’re changing up the plan!” This was followed by a song:

“People gonna rise like the water.

Gotta calm this crisis down.

I hear the voice of my great-granddaughter

Saying shut down Wall Street now.”

Later, when much of the crowd had sat down on the streets, and after the police confiscated two giant inflatable carbon bubbles, the crowd took up a chant of “people power won’t stop, carbon bubbles will pop.”

Another powerful moment came when Indigenous activists climbed up on to a window sill on a building adjacent to the sit-in with a banner reading “Indigenous Resistance since 1492.” The crowd responded with a resounding cheer.

Overall, the day was a big success and it succeeded in linking capitalism with economic justice and corporate rule. It has been an incredible few days in New York. At the end of the climate march on Sunday, a woman greeted those completing the long march several hours after it started with a sign saying “Now, go home and organize in your communities.” I hope that this weekend successfully galvanized many new activists and reaffirmed the commitment of those who are already engaged. I am leaving more determined than ever to work to prevent climate catastrophe and organize our communities in new ways.