By STEVE LEIGH
Protesters against fossil-fuel-driven climate change have taken to the streets around the world to coincide with the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. A National Day of Action took place in the United States on Oct. 29. Steve Leigh reports on the protest in Seattle.
“ Stop denying! Our planet is dying!” “Planet Action is what we need! Not billionaires and corporate greed!” This was the message of hundreds of demonstrators in Seattle on Friday, Oct. 29. The march was led by young people, especially from high schools. At Franklin H.S., dozens of students walked out of class to join the rally. Though the young people marched at the front, hundreds of older people, many who were retired, followed their lead.
The targets of the march were the institutions that fund and insure fossil-fuel production. The first rallying point was Chase Manhattan Bank, the largest financier of planet destroying projects. At Chase’s regional headquarters, the marchers heard speeches and staged a “die-in” to represent what Chase is doing to the planet and humanity. While the die-in proceeded, Seattle cops in riot gear “protected” the office from the non-violent demonstrators. The cops had little else to do since the bike brigade directed traffic away from the march.
Speakers called for a boycott of Chase to force them to quit funding dirty energy projects. Native people were prominent in the march. One Alaska Native said, “I am fed up! We fight to protect the eighth generation. The coral reefs are dying and the corporations don’t care. They don’t want to clean up the mess they have created. All they care about is money.”
From Chase, the march moved to the Liberty Mutual headquarters. Liberty Mutual insures pipelines in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. One speaker said, “ Without insurance , the fossil-fuel companies would have to stop their destruction. The future of the world’s youth is in the balance.” Interspersed with speakers, the organizers put on a skit satirizing the corporate executives at Liberty Mutual.
There were prominent banners on the march: “Don’t feed the fires of climate chaos,” “The time is now: Deadline Glasgow,” “Pipelines equal climate catastrophe,” “Take away the dollars, Pipelines to climate destruction” were some of the slogans.
Many creative chants punctuated the air: “That’s Bullshit! Get off it—Our planet’s not for profit,” “Defund fossil fuels,” “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!”
The final stop was City Hall. The city council is debating the coming year’s budget. Activists are demanding a “Solidarity Budget,” which would cut funding to the police and start funding a Seattle Green New Deal. While in the plaza outside the City Hall, the demonstrators called in to city council members to demand that they support the Solidarity Budget. One speaker noted the racist implications of the climate crisis. “It is disproportionately BIPOC people who suffer. Fracking pollutes the air and water. It increases cancer and infertility. I got asthma from fracked gas.”
A Native activist urged the rally to demand that Seattle take down the dams on the Skagit River. These dams have provided electricity to Seattle but have disrupted the culture and well being of Natives in the area—especially by severely hurting salmon runs. There is substantial momentum toward taking down the dams; 50,000 people have signed a petition.
At the end, marchers were encouraged to keep up the struggle and were pointed to tables of 350.org and other groups to get involved. More marches and rallies will follow.
Steve Leigh is a member of the Seattle Revolutionary Socialists and the Revolutionary Socialist Network.
Photo: Climate protesters outside the Chase Manhattan Bank building in Seattle. (Alan Berner / Seattle Times)