There are very few protest spaces that are perfect; many don’t even meet standards of “safe” or “effective.” I am not going to argue that the Climate March was any of this.
Really, it was flawed. There were instances of discomfort, such as when folks cheered for the NYPD helicopters, and being penned off on the streets with little access to water, restrooms or space to rest was certainly not a perk to protesting. Meanwhile, the college section was predominantly white which is problematic because lack of representation when climate change disproportionately affects people of color.
This brought into question our efforts at mobilizing students of color in higher education.
This disparity caused me to feel some alienation, which was exacerbated when I switched from the banner pictured above to a sign that read, “climate disruption is colonial”. At that point of the march, I was asked “what kind of native” I was. There was sneering, gawking and yelling. Photos of my face were taken without my consent (maybe 3 out of 40 people asked) and a man demanding my contact information followed me for a couple of blocks. These are issues organizers must
address within our communities before we begin mobilizing.
The Climate March was not an entirely negative experience. I had a conversation with an afro-Caribbean woman who must have been over sixty who had been organizing her entire life. She spoke to me about multinational corporations dumping in her home island and her fearless approach toward legislative bodies both foreign and in the United States. There were strangers who expressed support and friends who held my sign when my shoulders began to ache.
In those city streets, SLC students began conversations about sustainability and eco-responsibility on campus. It is important that we remember that progress is not linear, and it definitely isn’t neat. There are experiences from this march that I am still processing, trying to bring into my growth as an activist and as a person. And the experience as a whole has shown me that there are a lot of questions still worth asking.