Peoples Climate March: Communities rising to resist Trump
1. Peoples Climate March demonstrators sit on the ground in front of the White House and tap their hearts 100 times. /Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

WASHINGTON – Some 200,000 people from across the nation faced sweltering heat here Saturday to participate in the Peoples Climate March. They protested Donald Trump’s giving away the U.S. to the fossil fuels industry and they modeled the “collective leadership” Angela Davis and many others are saying is needed to defeat Trumpist policies.

There were speakers before and after the march up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, but none were celebrities. “One of our core principals,” march organizers said it a written statement, “is to lift up the voices of community leaders … We invite elected officials, celebrities, and other famous people to join us … and to add their voices as one of many.”

When the marchers reached the White House, they surrounded it, sat down and tapped their hearts 100 times to symbolize all hearts were beating as one and to mark Trump’s first 100 days in office.

The protesters also shouted “loud enough to drown out climate-denying nonsense” and to “demand climate justice and good jobs,” according to the organizers’ statement.

Job creation through transitioning to an economy based on sustainable energy sources was a demand voiced over and over again.

One of the marchers, Michael Leon Guerrero, executive director of the Labor Network for Sustainability, said  his organization “creates a space where union leaders and environmentalists can hold conversations that are not easy.” The goal is to help environmentalists better understand the concerns of workers who need jobs and to help workers better understand that millions of new jobs could be created by transitioning to an economy based on long term environmental sustainability.

O.J. Semans, Nana Firman, Michael Leon Guerrero, Rev. Leo Woodbury. | Larry Rubin/PW

Guerrero said that “we can’t expect today’s workers just to take a leap of faith.” Creating a sustainable economy requires organizing entire communities that will elect local, state and federal lawmakers who will be accountable to the public and who will stand up to oil-rich billionaires like the Koch brothers and put in place programs and policies aimed at creating a just and environmentally sound economy.

Working people, he said, “must be included in the development of solutions.”

Judith Howell, a building security officer and member of SEIU 32BJ, told March participants, “Energy companies are lying about the effects of burning oil and coal just like tobacco companies used to lie about the effects of smoking.”

She said that working people must fight for the right to organize and that they should organize to force the government to “put the health and safety of our communities before the profits of polluters.”

Unions were in the lead in organizing the event, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Amalgamated Transit Union, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Postal Workers Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Communications Workers of America.

In addition, representatives of Native Americans joined by the hundreds.

O.J. Semans of the Rosebud Sioux and the Native Organizers Alliance said that many Native American groups are working together to fight in court the completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline because it will cross the Ogallala Aquifer, which covers eight Great Plains states and holds water many Native Americans depend upon.

“We are in a fight for the survival of our physical lives and our spiritual lives,” he said.

“We won’t be able to use the water in our ceremonies because we can’t use water that’s been contaminated.”

Nana Firman, Muslim outreach director of Green Faith, also said that to her fighting climate change is a spiritual cause. “It’s not just a matter of science or economics,” she said, but a “moral and ethical issue.”

After surrounding the White House, most of the March participants went back to the Washington Monument to exchange ideas about strategies for resisting the dangers of Trump policies.

During his presidential campaign Trump said “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive … It’s really cold outside … Man, we could use a big fat dose of global warming!”

And on the day before the Peoples March, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) removed most climate change information from its website, saying in a press release that language on the website “is being updated to reflect the agency’s new direction under President Donald Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt.”

Larry Rubin/PW

On the same day, Pruitt told CNN news that “I would not agree that [carbon dioxide is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

Trump’s budget proposal would cut 31 percent from the budget of the EPA as well as almost wipe out research to address climate change. He is also rolling back restrictions on mining, oil drilling and greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.

Immediately before the march to the White House began Saturday, the Rev. Leo Woodberry of Florence, South Carolina, said “We are rising up in the barrios, ‘hoods, suburbs, schools and states!

“We have to insist there are no budget cuts!” We have to get our government to vote “against death-dealing energy and for the life giving power of the sun and wind.”

While the march was taking place here in Washington, there were more than 375 similar protests taking place in the U.S. and around the world.


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.