Climate action in the shadow of the White House
Carrie Madren, a freelance journalist, filed this dispatch from the International Climate Action Day event in Washington, D.C.
You had to be pretty dedicated to complete the 350.org march climate action march in Washington, D.C. That’s because participants had to slog down the streets of the nation’s capital in a deluge.
Participants in the D.C. rally gathered at Malcolm X Park at noon; skies were gray but all was dry. The crowd swelled as speakers offered up short speeches and musicians — in genres ranging from an eco-rapper to an all-women’s African drum corps — performed a couple songs each. Dark skies threatened rain, but drops didn’t fall until the moment that rally-ers turned to march down the park’s grassy expanse, White House-bound.
By the time the march got going, the crowd was numbering some 500 to 600, by my estimates, was made up of an eclectic mix of college-age kids, Generation X-ers and baby boomers, with a few dozen young kids, hippies and seniors tossed in.
Speakers included Denmark’s ambassador to the United States, who spoke about the need for America to support action in Copenhagen at December’s international climate conference. Environmental activist Sheila Holt Orsted recounted her experience with environmental injustice — the Tennessee county where she lived failed to tell her family and other black neighbors about contaminated groundwater, even while they informed white neighbors; Steve Ma of Live Green conveyed that we need more businesses focused on the future, not just focused on today. Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s Mike Tidwell pumped up the crowd before the march with a short but impassioned rally speech.
As the march began, umbrellas popped up as the crowd sought to avoid a drenching from a driving rain storm. The marchers headed south on 16th Street, occupying up all southbound lanes. Cars passing by honked and cheered. Marchers carried a 350-foot-long banner with climate change messages, pictures, signatures and notes scrawled across the entire banner.
A solar-powered bus (Solarbus.org) led the way, followed by a fleet of bicyclists, then climate change foot soldiers.
The riving rains poured down, creating huge puddles (and under a bridge, a foot-deep lake), but accompanying police kept the marchers moving along with right of way to traffic.
At Lafayette Park in front of the White House, marchers formed a “circle of hope,” chanting messages to President Obama — and even singing “This Land is Your Land” (a suggestion shouted from a Baby Boomer). Wet protesters slowly slogged away as the rally died down about 4:45 p.m., tired, yet empowered.