"Extinction Rebellion” Protest Shuts Down Street Near White House | WYPR

"Extinction Rebellion” Protest Shuts Down Street Near White House

Sep 25, 2019

The Extinction Rebellion climate protest boat, surrounded by police, near the White House.
Credit Tom Pelton

On Monday in Washington D.C., three blocks north of the White House, climate activists shut down traffic by banging drums, chanting, and dragging a 24-foot long boat into the middle of a busy intersection.

The sailboat was painted bright pink on one side, and yellow on the other, and emblazoned with the words, “Tell the Truth,” and “Rebel for Life.”  As more than 40 police officers surrounded the protesters, one of the crew raised a flag over the ship with a black X surrounded by a circle. It’s the symbol of a group called the Extinction Rebellion.

One of the protesters, Nadine Bloch of Tacoma Park, explained what the advocacy organization is. “The Extinction Rebellion is a group that’s global, that’s working on moving governments and others to take responsibility and change what we’re doing,” Block said.  “The goal is to actually address the climate crisis now and keep fossil fuels in the ground and make sure the government is doing what it needs to do to keep our climate change in check.”

The protest was one of several taking place around the world this week to raise public awareness of global warming. But I asked Nadine Bloch whether causing traffic jams with street theater would be more likely to convince the public support to her cause or whether it spark backlash.

“Personally, there is nothing that can be too much, because we are in a climate crisis,” Bloch said. “If you read the science, there is a potential that we’ve just got eight years until we have completely runaway climate change.  We need to really address that. So when we have creative stunts like this, with a boat high and dry in the middle of K Street and 16th Street that leads down to the White House, we’re making a big statement.”

The President was not home in the White House at the time. He was up in New York, making a brief appearance at a United Nations Climate Summit. There, President Trump and other world leaders were scolded by a 16-year climate activist, Greta Thunberg.

“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money….How dare you!” Thunberg said.   “For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear.  How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in site.”

President Trump’s response was to mock the teenager, just as he’s made light of the scientific consensus on climate change for years, falsely labeling it a hoax. 

Trump said on Twitter: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”

Sound of student protesters chanting, “You’ve got to think something good! You’ve got to say something good. You’ve got to do something good….”

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, the President’s rhetoric and approach to climate change did not sit well with about 600 student protesters outside City Hall. They organized one of more than 1,000 student climate strike events held around the world on Friday.

“I’m here to call out Donald Trump,” one student shouted into a bullhorn. “ You’re going to be sitting here calling our city trash?  Calling our city trash?  Nah, Chief, that ain’t workin’. That ain’t working for me.  That ain’t working for anyone here. I’m here to tell him: Listen, this world is dying. Dying! Right at our feet. And we have some way to change this.”

How to change this?  By voting on Tuesday Nov. 3, 2020.