On The Eve of the COP: Getting Into Action [Breaking COP 21 Updates]
Successful social movements do not always look to the police or state authorities for permission take action for justice. In the 1965 Civil Rights march from Selma to Montgomery, protesters were forbid to march on the first day across that bridge, yet they marched anyways. Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot to death by a state police officer in front of his family for his decision to march. Ultimately, that movement changed the United States and the world. In the Indian Independence Movement, inspired by Ghandi’s nonviolence principles, communities rose up and claimed their sovereignty despite such actions being forbidden by the British colonial government. After much courage, sacrifice, and strategic action, they too were successful
Right now in Paris, “state of emergency” laws officially forbid any political protests, marches or other creative actions in public spaces. Yet we face interconnected crisis that impel us to act. The climate crisis, ecological crisis, and social inequities are a matter of life and death for many people. According to a DARA report, 100 million people will die by 2030 from climate impacts if the world does not act now, and many more displaced. 100. Million. People. We face a historic choice right now: act on climate change now, or go down a path of unthinkable climate chaos.
So today we took action. Today we saw massive action around the world for climate justice, with marches in cities everywhere. In Paris, the climate movement organized a creative “human chain” solidarity action. 10,000 people linked arms in the streets of Paris, on the sidewalk. We agreed to not block traffic (car or pedestrian) and to remain peaceful in our actions. The police agreed to not interfere with the event.
WATCH: The Beautiful Faces of the Human Chain by Earth Guardian Jonathan Reed
Later in the day, people laid out 10,000 shoes in Republique Square as a “ghost march.” Even Pope Francis donated shoes to may in the square in protest of climate injustice. This was a beautiful and artful way to make a big statement in the streets while not risking arrest!
Around the same time, protesters against police brutality took to the streets. They choose to directly confront police, and Earth Guardian's delegates saw police spray pepper spray and tear gas into the crowd, and arrest hundreds with force. Protesters also threw bottles and other objects at the police. This action was not part of the human chain climate justice event. We witnessed the interaction between police and protesters from the sidewalk just beyond where the tear gas was sprayed, so it got in our eyes.
We are now reflecting on what today's actions mean for our movement, for this global moment? Earth Guardian's delegates weighed in:
Today was wild. First of all, the action today was really incredible. It showed that even though the government banned public gatherings, people can get together and co-crate to have an impact when faced with adversity. It was a creative solution to a challenging situation. It was an incredible example of how in the future, when we are hit with challenges as a movement, that incredible people will come forward with solutions. There was a gathering of 10,000 people in the streets! In terms of the violence, it was one of the most dramatic thing I’ve ever experienced. I was tear gassed for the first time. I’ve never seen anything like that before. It seemed surreal. While it was stressful and chaotic, the day was also exciting. It was great to be able to stay connected and safe and together as a group with other Earth Guardians. -Jaiia
I found the action today to be really inspiring; so many people were there standing together- united with a common vision of the world we want to live in. Even though there was so much anticipation for the giant march, I think linking arms to show peace, love and respect in this way was amazing. I’ve never seen an actions quite like that before! -Aidan
I was feeling a lot of crazy different energies. It was cool to see everyone there unified, linking arms. I feel energized and motivated. -Jasi
While I empathize with the anger and frustration protesters feel, I stand by non-violence as a real solution to our crisis. Throwing glass and yelling at police just gives them an opportunity to escalate the situation with more violence. I'm super proud and happy of all the people who showed courage, resolve and unity as we stood up for climate justice. There were many hundreds of thousands marching in cities all around the world today. -Daniel