As many as 2,000 people seized key intersections across Washington D.C. on Monday morning, significantly disrupting business-as-usual in the U.S. capital to demand an immediate end to the age of fossil fuels, and a swift and just transition to renewable energy. The Coalition has decided to return to the streets on September 27, the last day of the Global Climate Strike.
A broad coalition of climate and social justice groups fanned out across downtown D.C. to seize 22 intersections over the course of the morning, blocking traffic during rush hour. At one blockade, activists hauled a pink and yellow yacht into the middle of the street and chained themselves to it. Others locked themselves to tall step ladders. Some groups barricaded roads with an 80-foot long inflatable oil pipeline; others with 30-foot ladders and an enormous replica of fire extinguisher. With some dressed as dinosaurs and polar bears, many danced in the streets with college students, nurses and passersby joining in, chanting, “We demand a green new deal,” and “Our house is on fire, put the fire out.”
Black Lives Matter and healthcare workers fighting for climate justice set up a free blood pressure clinic in the middle of the road. “We know that climate injustice and environmental racism are fueled by the same systems of white supremacy, capitalism, imperialism, patriarchy and colonialism from which we seek to liberate Black people,” said Nee Nee Taylor, Direct Action Coordinator with Black Lives Matter DMV. “We know that Black people in DC, Black people in this country, and Black people across the diaspora will continue to be the most impacted by climate disaster.”
The group Rising Tide North America blocked roads by locking themselves to a car and an 80’s conversion van. A labor rights and Democratic Socialists of America group shut down the intersections around Amazon’s DC headquarters, and a Migrant Justice group did the same at the headquarters of ICE. Werk for Peace, a queer and trans grassroots movement, blasted biodegradable confetti outside the offices of Wells Fargo and the American Petroleum Institute while jiving to “hot beats”.
“Climate change is a public health emergency. It affects the health of all of us, but most especially our disenfranchised communities. We must invest in the health of frontline communities now and in the future to protect against the worst of what climate change will bring,” said Katie Donnelly, a doctor manning the blood pressure clinic.
Police arrested 32 people, including 26 college students, before releasing them later in the day. Officers moved in at around 700AM. They towed a van for seven blocks with two activists still chained to the roof, putting their lives in danger.
One of the activists locked to the roof of the van, Daniel Dixon, said: “After I locked myself to the van, the police violently shoved away our support team, attached the van to a tow truck, and drove away with zero regard for our physical safety. As the police were towing us down Independence Avenue, I yelled ‘no stolen oil from stolen land,’ ‘respect Indigenous sovereignty,’ and ‘honor the treaties’.”
At the yacht, police formed a perimeter and blocked people from approaching the vessel. They cut through the chains that activists had used to lock themselves to the boat. It took officers nearly three hours to remove the yacht from the street. Capitol Police dismantled the health clinic erected by Black Lives Matter and a group of healthcare workers within 20 minutes of their arrival and then arrested six people sitting in the road.
“I couldn’t believe it – they carried a sailboat out and set it in the middle of K Street. It was actually pretty cool. It certainly made my drive more interesting,” said one driver.
#ShutDownDC builds on the recent surge of student-led climate strikes and mass protests that have rattled politicians around the world. The blockade of the U.S. capital is also timed to coincide with the start on Monday of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.
The coalition’s demands include a Green New Deal that brings about a swift and just transition to 100% renewable energy. It also wants governments to protect at least 50% of the world’s lands and oceans, and to halt deforestation by 2030. The coalition is also calling for climate justice for everyone. The transition to a clean future must boost rather than further harm communities hit by poverty and pollution.
Monday’s #ShutDownDC mobilization was a huge step forward, but we still have a long way to go to create the level of disruption that we’ll need to force the politicians and rich power brokers to abandon their program of delay and inaction so we can move forward with a bold program to address the climate crisis.
Let’s hit the streets again on Friday, September 27th at 7am! This is your chance to join in! Details and meeting place coming soon, but check StrikeDC.org or text StrikeDC to 88202 for updates and details!
THE COALITION: 198 Methods, 350 DC, Backbone Campaign, Beyond Extreme Energy, Black Lives Matter DMV, Chesapeake Climate Action Network Action Fund, Code Pink, Extinction Rebellion DC, Friends of the Earth Action, Friends Meeting in Washington Social Concerns Committee, Labor Network for Sustainability, Metro DMV Democratic Socialists of America, Movement for a People’s Party, Rising Tide North America, Sunrise Movement DC, Werk for Peace, and World BEYOND War.