Confrontational Tactics, Less Coherent Message Turn Off Would-Be Allies
If the People’s Climate March worked wonders to rally disparate groups around the climate change issue, ‘Flood Wall Street’ may have done just as much to set things back.
“Half the people here don’t even know why they’re here,” complained Danny Curry, a plumber who works in the city and usually takes the X1 or X3 bus back home to Staten Island (he learned about the protest in tandem with the realization that his evening commute would be upended). “There are so many causes, and many of them don’t make sense.”
As he spoke, a protester walked up to a line of police with a vaguely worded sign making reference to Nazis. Other banners included “stop capitalism” and placards with similar denunciations.
Fermin Villalpando, a student at The King’s College (a Christian liberal arts university down the street) agreed with Curry as he shook his head.
“The people here are walking in sneakers, wearing clothes, and using cell phones just like the rest of us,” Villalpando said. “That’s all thanks to capitalism. The message to ‘bring down capitalism’ is too severe.”
Camille Herrera came all the way from San Francisco to participate in the climate march, but watched the Wall Street protests from the barricades. She said that many friends who joined her Sunday didn’t know about the event planned for Monday, and with plane, train and bus tickets purchased beforehand, they had already been whisked away. What remained, she said, was a different element.
“I agree with some of these themes here–there’s certainly the feeling of an oligarchy in our government now,” said Herrera, who claimed to have “worked in a corporate environment her entire life.” But still, something was amiss for her.
“It’s just a different setting,” Herrera said. “Yesterday had all these broad-based, interfaith components. It was very welcoming to different people and disparate groups. I worry that an event like this might push people away. It’s ‘us verses them,’ instead of ‘us and more of us.'”
Still, some individuals were on message, with appeals that aimed to link the different goals among the crowds.
Among them was Peter Galvin, Co-Founder and Director of Programs at the Center for Biological Diversity, who wore a polar bear costume as a symbol to emphasize the urgency of his message.
“We need dramatic action to survive on this planet,” Galvin said. “Our government is now held hostage by Wall Street. We need to curb carbon emissions immediately, but our elected leaders are striking out. The system is broken, but we have to make change.”
Also connecting the dots was Salim Ocasio from Bushwick, who circulated a petition on behalf of Americans Take Action to overturn the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision (allowing an unprecedented flow of corporate money into politics) and increase voter turnout by challenging new voter ID laws that claim to prevent almost non-existent voter fraud while reducing the ability for low-income and minority citizens to cast their ballots.
“To me, it’s all connected,” Ocasio said. “To combat climate change, we need meaningful laws reducing emissions. But so long as big oil and big business exert their influence through lobbying and enormous political donations, we’ll never get on the path to alternative energy. Until we solve the ‘money in politics’ problem, we’ll never solve the climate problem.”
After his eloquent explanation, the police eventually asked the protestors to disperse, but many refused, and were arrested.