What does climate change have to do with capitalism? According to "Flood Wall Street" organizers, who are part of a mass people's response to the upcoming United Nations Climate Summit in New York City, the answer is simple: Everything.
To illustrate this, thousands of people on Monday, September 22 will bring the climate crisis to the doorsteps of the financial institutions underpinning the capitalist economic system by "flooding" New York's Wall Street district with a mass sit-in of people donning blue and bearing a 300-foot banner that reads "Capitalism = Climate Chaos. Flood Wall Street."
Organizers of the protest told Common Dreams that 400 people from across the country have already committed to risking arrest in the direct action and they expect that number to grow. Many more, they say, will attend the protest as supporters of the civil disobedience. "It's going to be a sea of blue evocative of Hurricane Sandy that's going to flood the financial district," organizer Michael Premo told Common Dreams.
This action is targeting capitalism itself because "the climate crisis fundamentally is a result of an economic system that is based on endless extraction, endless growth, and ceaseless exploitation of the earth and people," explained Premo. "A lot of the small incremental changes that have been touted over the last decade as addressing the situation are just band-aids. If there is any hope of building a more ecologically sustainable and socially equitable economy, we have to start at the root."
Monday's direct action will kick off with a 9:00 am demonstration in Battery Park, which will include music from New York City radical marching band the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, to be followed by speakers including Naomi Klein, Rebecca Solnit, and leaders from the Climate Justice Alliance. Protesters will then march to the New York Stock Exchange, where the direct action will take place at noon. The organizers of the protest do not hail from a single group but constitute a network of "Occupy Wall Street veterans, student divestment activists, housing activists, artists and more," according to a press statement.
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The protest is a response to a recent call to action from Climate Justice Alliance, a global coalition of indigenous peoples, people of color, and poor and working class communities bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. "From Mesa to Mountaintop, from Hood to Holler—join us as we meet the scale and urgency of the crisis by standing in solidarity with all frontlines of resistance and resilience around the world, and taking non-violent direct action against the corporations driving the extractive economy," reads the statement from the group.
“We are flooding Wall Street to stop its financing of planetary destruction, and make way for living economies that benefit people and planet,” said Michael Leon Guerrero of the Climate Justice Alliance. “Communities that are first and most impacted by storms, floods and droughts are also on the frontlines of fighting the dig, burn, dump economy causing climate change."
But these communities are not invited to the UN summit of government representatives, corporations, financial institutions, and select civil society organizations that will take place at the UN headquarters in New York City on September 23rd. Last week a global coalition of social movement organizations, including La Via Campesina and Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, slammed the "corporate takeover" and "false promises" of the meeting.
Grassroots creative actions and events will take place outside UN meeting's closed doors. Flood Wall Street will come the day after the People's Climate March, which is expected to bring out historic numbers. A People's Climate Justice Summit is one of many activities planned as part of a week of action in New York. While a multitude of organizations, bringing a vast array of political visions, will participate in the week of actions, Flood Wall Street organizers say groups and people among them are seeking to push the conversation towards a critique of capitalism. Meanwhile, people across the world, from Mexico to Egypt to South Africa, plan simultaneous demonstrations and actions.
"The world is at stake," said Vida James, a social worker and one of the many organizers behind Flood Wall Street, in an interview with Common Dreams. "This action is part of a larger global community that is taking direct action against climate change. We are part of a tapestry of communities all over the world fighting for change, risking arrest and security."