Bill McKibben and climate activists are arrested in NYC

Climate campaigners including co-founder Bill McKibben (in baseball cap) are arrested by New York Police Department officers during a protest against Citigroup's fossil fuel finance on July 8, 2024 in Manhattan.

(Photo: Planet Over Profit/X)

Elders Arrested Protesting Citibank Funding of Planet's Destruction

"We are on the cusp of a ruined planet, and the big banks like Citi are funding it, to the tune of trillions," said one organizer.

As Earth sizzles during what's likely to be its hottest summer on record amid a worsening planetary emergency, dozens of elder climate campaigners including co-founder Bill McKibben were arrested Monday in New York while protesting Wall Street giant Citigroup's continued fossil fuel financing.

Members of the group Third Act—who are mostly aged 60 and older—led a "funeral procession" near Citigroup's Manhattan headquarters in remembrance of the senior citizens who have died during recent dangerous heatwaves and to call out the bank "for being the number one funder of fossil fuel expansion in the world," according to Summer of Heat, which is organizing a series of ongoing climate protests.

Summer of Heat said McKibben was one of 46 demonstrators arrested Monday, and that "with today's protest, there have now been 305 total arrests in this summer's historic campaign of relentless, disruptive protests to stop Wall Street funding the oil, coal, and gas projects that are making our planet unlivable."

According to Summer of Heat:

Older Americans are worried about growing climate extremes and how Wall Street is using their savings to harm the planet and their grandchildren's future. Third Act supporters are retired teachers, healthcare professionals, lawyers, union members, parents, grandparents, great aunts, uncles, and now activists. They are taking action—together with youth and families—to make a difference! They are calling on banks like Citi to invest in a peaceful and livable world for all.

"It might feel very hot to us, but it was 122 degrees (Fahrenheit) in New Delhi two weeks ago. Lots and lots and lots of people died," McKibben told protest participants before his arrest. "Things like this now happen every day around the world, and they happen worst [and] first in the places that have done the least to cause this crisis."

"This is the deepest question of justice the world has ever come across," McKibben added. "And the bank that we're outside has done more than almost any institution on Earth to make it worse. Given full warning by scientists of all kinds for the last 30 years, they have decided instead to try to make profit off the end of the world."

Margaret Bullit-Jonas, an Episcopalian priest and author who took part in Monday's protest, said that "Citibank is destroying the world that God loved into being and entrusted to our care."

"At this decisive moment in history, we teeter on the brink of climate chaos," she added. "Now is the time for Citibank to choose life and to stop financing fossil fuels."

Third Act members were joined by activists from various climate, environmental, and social justice groups. Summer of Heat organizer Liv Senghor said that the campaign "is an intergenerational and intersectional movement."

"We know that there is no climate justice without social justice," Senghor said. "And we know that if we do not stop financial institutions like Citibank right now, we will all feel the deadly consequences today, tomorrow, and for generations to come."

HipHop Caucus president and CEO Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. asserted that "to limit ongoing damage, and ensure a bright future for the next generations, we need bold action now to curb emissions, transition to clean energy, and to help households and communities mitigate current and future risks."

Gus Speth, a former U.S. Council on Environmental Quality chair, warned that "we are on the cusp of a ruined planet, and the big banks like Citi are funding it, to the tune of trillions."

"It's time for the Citigroup board of directors to wake up to their responsibility," he added. "Citi talks about environmental sustainability but practices environmental destruction."

Citigroup contends that it is "supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy through our net zero commitments and our $1 trillion sustainable finance goal," and that its "approach reflects the need to transition while also continuing to meet global energy needs."

However, since the 2015 signing of the Paris agreement, Citi has provided $204.46 billion in financing for new fossil fuel projects, according to Stop the Money Pipeline, a Summer of Heat co-organizer.

"From the Bronx to the Gulf South, Black, Latine, Asian, Indigenous, and low-income communities living on the frontlines of the climate crisis—and the ones least responsible for it—face the highest asthma rates and staggering cancer rates while an unprecedented number of people are dying from heat waves," Summer of Heat said.

"Instead of staying home and hiding from the heat, organizers are calling on all New Yorkers and climate defenders from across the globe to take to the streets and demand that Wall Street stop destroying our future," the group added.

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