The Peoples Climate March - no where near where the leaders are meeting

As someone who has been active at the UN climate negotiations, and co-directed the successful multi-stakeholder group to get water into the UNFCCC, I was really pleased to see the posters and promotions for the New York Climate March. 

I thought i would have a look at what is billed the largest climate march ever which is happening in New York on September 21st. I assumed that it is somehow linked to the Secretary Generals event and so would pass right next to the UN. 

To my utter surprise and dismay the march will go no where near the UN where of Heads of State are meeting on September 23rd but as far away on the island as possible.

The march starts at Central Park West between 65th and 86th streets and moves not eastward when it gets to 42nd street towards the UN (1st Avenue) but westward to 11th street. I doubt precious civil rights or peace marches would have agreed to this. If Martin Luther King had had to be as far away as this march is from the White House I think it would have taken him over the Potomac river in Washington. 

Any great march is supported by a host of great and less great speakers. So I then looked to see who were the stars to speak at the rally were. 

Who would be our Martin Luther King speakers? Who would inspire us to work on the issue over the coming months? Who were going to challenge the Heads of State to set targets on CO2? Where are the workshops to prepare us? Where are the meetings organised with the member states who would in the following days be discussing climate change? Where are the rallies in important Senate seats? Because to ratify anything agreed in Paris next year there will need to be 60 members of the Senate prepared to support it. Infact where is a strategy

Again to my dismay I couldn't find a rally or any of the above at the end of the march instead you are meant to 'network'. REALLY!!!! Clearly in the minds of the people organizing the event its not an urgent issue.

I have to say this looks like a HUGE HUGE missed opportunity. I would have to say if i was in the opposition i would be laughing at this. As i am not Im just sad and very disappointed. If this is the best we can do then I dont think we will succeed. 


  1. The People’s Climate March – It’s going where ?!

    Michael Strauss, Earth Media

    While it's fairly rare that I agree with my good friend Mr. Dodds on political strategy (contrary to widely held perception), and rarer still that Felix takes up the radical fringe position, I am obliged to second his evaluation of the March's logistics.

    A major public policy protest with no culminating speakers platform, no meaningful or symbolic venue, and no substantive set of policy demands is a very curious demonstration.

    I can understand some of how it evolved. As we all know too well, left-wing...sorry, progressive political coalitions are a fragile balance of fractious elements at the most fortuitous of times, and a dysfunctional morass most of the rest.

    My impression after observing one of the major organizing meetings in July, was that the 4 or 5 lead national groups had made a tactical decision to only provide the bare framework of a typical protest, and delegated the logistical decisions to local organizations in order to allow as many local constituency groups as possible [labor unions, minority communities, issue advocates] to take their own initiatives in terms of community education and outreach, and to bring their members to the event in large numbers.

    As they've emphasized, their goal was to 'broaden the participation beyond the typical environmental constituency', which they felt was still predominantly white and relatively affluent, and reach those more on the front lines of climate impacts.
    Why they felt those two were mutually exclusive, I'm not sure, but in order to build that very diverse coalition, and avoid having to make 'difficult' decisions on who would speak from the platform at the march's culmination, they took the extraordinary decision to not have anyone speak, and indeed not have any platform at all at the march's culmination.

    Now in reality, it looks like the plan is to have the lead groups provide a series of press conferences and interviews, which they hope will be covered by journalists as the de facto People's March speakers, while the thousands in the march serve as the video backdrop. And that may work on some television reports, but for those attending it has to leave a gaping vacuum.

    But the even more stunning omission is the utter lack of any relevant venues or sites along the march route. An event that's pegged to a UN Climate Summit doesn't pass within one mile of the United Nations. It passes by no oil or gas corporations buildings. No major banks that invest in those projects. None of the neighborhoods flooded by Hurricane Sandy. Not even the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.

    Here's the explanation by the very senior, NYC-based organizer, who emphasized her vast experience in protester-police negotiations.

  2. Here's the explanation by the very senior, NYC-based organizer, who emphasized her vast experience in protester-police negotiations.

    Logistics Coordinator Leslie Cagan, who headed up the march's talks with the NYPD, said the NYPD-sanctioned route was necessary to ensure no participant would be scared away.

    “In order to offer a demonstration to people that they felt comfortable going to, where they wouldn’t be putting themselves at risk, we felt we had to negotiate with the police.”

    “We kept saying, ‘We need to meet with you, we need to meet with you,’ and they kept putting it off,” she said. With tens of thousands of people converging on the city, organizers needed to pin down a date. But even once communication was established, the NYPD took another month to finalize a permit for Sunday's event.

    The organizers didn’t even ask for a march route near the United Nations. “Sunday afternoon there are no people on the Upper East Side anyway,” Cagan says. Negotiators did try to get a permit to march through Times Square, but the NYPD nixed that.

    Cagan looks on the bright side. “The good news is that once we did settle with them that we weren't going to Times Square, since then everything has been extremely easy, and the dynamic with the police has been very good,” she says.

    Or, in other words - 'Once we assured them that there would be no speakers, and wouldn't be going anywhere that held any meaningful symbolism in terms of New York City venues, the police became very friendly.'

    That isn't to say that The People's March might still not achieve the political success the climate movement so desperately requires. If it can draw certain critical number of participants, it might be portrayed in the press - and perceived by politicians and the public - as an indicator of suddenly-exploding popular support.

    My personal guess is the threshold for that perception is 200,000 participants in New York, with rallies of 5-10,000 in at least ten cities in other countries. That would build political momentum. It could strengthen political leaders' will. And it might indeed significantly expand the constituency in the U.S. that identifies with climate.

    And there'd be nothing at all wrong with that.

    It's just that it could have been much more.


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