Solidarity, love, & resistance: a week of justice in the Gulf Coast

Photos by Weenta Girmay, owner and co-director at Weenta Productions. She has a sincere love for people and their stories, which is what inspires her to keep making new media.

In the last two months, the Gulf South region of the US experienced an onslaught of the most devastating impacts of climate change and fossil fuel extraction.

Just a few weeks ago, the worst climate disaster since Hurricane Sandy hit Baton Rouge and the surrounding area, with major floods damaging more than an estimated 100,000 homes and displacing tens of thousands of people. South Louisiana residents are still dealing with the aftermath.

Before this catastrophic flooding took place, three different oil spills happened in southeast Louisiana within 10 days. There’s been a relentless assault on the Gulf South, fueled by the effects of oil and gas extraction.

Adding insult to injury, on August 24th the Obama administration planned to auction off a huge area of the Gulf of Mexico for offshore drilling.

The Gulf Coast has historically been seen as a sacrifice zone to so many destructive forces, from climate injustice to state violence to economic exploitation.

But from August 20th to 24th, Gulf South residents and allies in the US came together for a week of love, solidarity, and resistance for a vision of another Gulf — one where the Gulf is not a sacrifice zone.

This week of action kicked off August 20th, with an intersectional march organized by people from across the Gulf. The march brought together different movements to demand a just transition from unsustainable and extractive practices — from offshore drilling to police brutality and environmental racism to deportations and the unjust treatment of LGBTQ+ communities.

Gulf Coast residents and allies came together to say enough is enough: we demand justice and equity for every coastal community.

After experiencing the impact of the flooding near Baton Rouge firsthand, Cherri Foytlin, state director of BOLD Louisiana, started off the march by reminding us why we were there that day: to say that another Gulf is possible.

Movements were visually tied together at the march with brightly colored banners lined up one by one, representing the fights for justice taking place on the Gulf Coast.

Black Lives Matter banner at the 8/20 March of Interdependence
Anna Karina De Lage marching in front of the “Indigenous Rising” banner

Hot 8 Brass Band supplied a celebratory spirit during the march, and led us in chanting:

We are unstoppable, another Gulf is possible!

Each stop made — at Shell headquarters, the ICE offices in New Orleans, and the white supremacist monument honoring the Battle of Liberty Place — wove together different movements across the region, highlighting how each fight is connected and reliant on each other.

Spoken word artist Quess Moore with Take ’Em Down NOLA in front of the Battle of Liberty Place monument

The march closed out with a rally in front of Jackson Square followed by a water ceremony on the Mississippi River. Kandi Mosset, with Indigenous Environmental Network, came down from North Dakota’s Standing Rock Camp to lead the water ceremony with Monique Verdin of Louisiana and Cherri.

Kandi Mosset holding a #NoDAPL bandana in solidarity with the Gulf

Before the water ceremony, Kandi told the crowd how moved she was to be on the Gulf for this week of action, happening at the same time as the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

Monique Verdin, Cherri Foytlin, and Kandi Mosset leading the water ceremony on the Mississippi River

In the days following the march, two separate actions took place urging President Obama to stop the fossil fuel auction happening on August 24th. Almost 200,000 people signed a petition to cancel the auction and four people were arrested while peacefully attempting to deliver petitions to President Obama’s BOEM the day before bids were sold.

Earlier this summer, BOEM officials closed offshore auctions to the public to prevent Gulf communities from openly protesting the auctions on site. On the day of the auction, after being barred entrance a group of Gulf residents demonstrated outside of the New Orleans Superdome, demanding that Abigail Hopper, director of BOEM, speak with them about ending offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

We need a just transition in the Gulf Coast. I’m here to welcome it, and my kids are going to be here to build it.
— Cherri Foytlin, BOLD Louisiana

Despite these two peaceful direct actions and almost 200,000 signatures to cancel the auction, the bids were sold — but they were historically low. While the auction may not have been canceled, the Obama administration was definitely paying attention.

This week of love and solidarity across movements on the Gulf Coast is a testament to the growing resistance of coastal communities, and shows that another Gulf is possible.

However, our work is far from over. On September 20th, the Obama administration will hold the first online fossil fuel auction, selling off more public lands and waters to the fossil fuel industry.

We need to take action to stop the continued sale of land and waters for extraction — 0ur climate and communities depend on it. Sign the petition to demand that President Obama cancel all upcoming fossil fuel sales.

Photo by Justin Deegan

Alongside the fight to stop fossil fuel auctions, the Dakota Access Pipeline battle is heating up. This week, water protectors locked themselves to equipment, halting construction.

To continue standing strong against the DAPL, Sacred Stone Camp needs our support: donate here for necessary supplies like food, water, and propane for the camp.

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