Extinction Rebellion Protests in New York with Youth Climate Strike: 16 People Arrested
In solidarity with New York City participants in the worldwide, historic International Youth Climate Strike to demand immediate action on climate change, the movement organization Extinction Rebellion (XR) was invited to support joined with protesting youth by performing in an act of civil disobedience outside the American Museum of Natural History on Friday, March 15th. Sixteen people in all were arrested near the museum in an act of civil disobedience. Of those arrested, two were youth and 14 were members of XR.
Following a 5,000-strong youth march from Columbus Circle to the steps of the museum, the protesters linked arms, blocking traffic at 81st Street at Central Park West for almost 30 minutes. This event was one of hundreds that took place around the world on March 15th, sparked by a global movement that began barely six months ago when a single Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, started skipping school on Fridays to protest environmental inaction by politicians.
Youth organizers of NYC Youth Climate Strike, co-led by Alexandria “Lexi” Villaseñor, invited Extinction Rebellion NYC (XR-NYC) to add a component of civil disobedience to their event. Such public acts are designed to interrupt business-as-usual and to focus attention on the existential threat posed to all life on earth by climate breakdown, including the lives of students. The main goal of such events is to force governments to take action to mitigating the catastrophic effects of climate change. This disruptive yet peaceful tactic reflects the nonviolent approach of both XR and the Youth Climate Strikers.
Four members of XR-NYC wore masks with the faces of President Trump and Senators Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein and Mitch McConnell. All four politicians from both parties have refused to back the Green New Deal or any viable alternative, and thus their masked effigies were treated as fossils that belonged in the museum. (This idea is a reference to a tweet by Thunberg that went viral in February: “Ok. We hear you. And we don’t care. Your statement belongs in a museum.”) Protesters also held massive 60-foot-long banners that read “The Youth Have Spoken. Are You Listening?” and “What Will You Tell Your Children?”
Nix, a 17-year-old student climate striker from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Manhattan who preferred to share only her nickname publicly, was one of the two young people arrested. After her release, Nix said, “I’ve always been passionate about fighting climate change. It really depressed me that corporations are more concerned with money. I thought I was just going to go to a regular protest, but when they started blocking the street I wanted to join in.”
Janna Beckler, a member of XR said, “I’m a mother of three young children and now we’re in emergency mode. I want the children to know they aren’t alone in this.”
Nate Wright, a teacher and XR member said, “I was here to support the youth. Nothing else has worked to get action on climate change, so now we’re taking it to the next level.”
Kelly Anne Schaffer, a school social worker who participated in the civil disobedience action and is the parent of a very young daughter, said, “It’s incredibly exciting to see youth mobilizing and taking action like this and I want to do what I can to support them. I hope we get a lot of press so that more students join the movement and politicians start to take notice. I think it’s important that parents trust their children and just support and participate in what they decide to do.”
Pictures and media coverage of the 3/15/19 event can be found at: http://xrr.nyc/YouthClimateStrikePhotos