Climate Action at L.A. City Hall — #EarthtoParis – by Marcelo Mendez

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Mendez-Marcelo-LAecorallySummary: The November 29 climate rally in downtown Los Angeles addressed the need for a local shift from fossil fuels to renewables, as well as issues of race and class — Editors


Several hundred people gathered in front of Los Angeles City Hall Sunday, November 29th, in joining an international rally against climate change and to stand in unison under the currently ongoing Conference of the Parties (COP 21) climate treaty negotiations in Paris. The rally also demanded a local shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Graced with clear skies and warm temperatures, activists, students, nurses, seniors, mothers, fathers, children, and IMHO members chanted “Hey, Ho, fossil fuels have got to go!” and “Ho, Hey, wind and solar save the day!” as we marched ‘round City Hall.

The rally began with an acknowledgement of the ground we stood upon, once occupied by the Indigenous Tongva. Two men with indigenous heritage gave a chant in the Tongva tongue to bless what was to come from the rally, lifting spirits as they sang. Meanwhile, people squatted and knelt low by the sidelines as they prepared posters with messages reading “Clean Jobs, Clean Planet,” “No Water, No Life,” “End War Emissions,” and “One Planet Indigenous,” the most noticeable sign being a colorful montage of letters reading “#EARTHTOPARIS.”

Among the groups attending the rally were 350.org, whose members helped organize the event, well-organized members from the Bernie Sanders campaign, Greenpeace, the California Nurses Association, and high school students. The people in attendance were not completely homogenous, though there was still a majorly white presence. People of color were a distinct minority, with the event lacking a #BlackLivesMatter group completely, save for an on-the-spot sign created by an IMHO member. The speakers at the event, however, took up racial environmental justice by addressing topics close to the area. A youth from South Central told of her plight growing up amidst pollution, finding that her coming down with stomach pain, headaches, fatigue, and asthma was not an isolated incident, but common amongst her friends and family, weaving together race, class, and the environment as she told her story. Soon after, Martin Luther King’s idea of “Beloved Community” was invoked, with the speaker calling upon fellow demonstrators to muster the courage to meet people unlike themselves, not only in the demonstration, but in their everyday lives. Will future societies be as distant, cold as ours today? The orator stressed that our future will need a much warmer feeling, rising temperatures withstanding.

The march began with an enthusiasm that soon tapered off, there being only one chant that lost its luster after a couple repetitions. The march itself was a short five minutes around City Hall, usually empty save for homeless folk and persons across the street in Grand Park, who wandered in and out of the event. Thankfully, this was not a demonstration left at that; as we marched around, organizers passed out fliers for the Convergence for Climate Action Now on December 3rd and the Building Blocks Against Climate Change! on December 12. So for persons looking to get involved and see what issues are being worked on in the area, this rally was useful.

This was a holiday weekend, so one would expect attendance to be inflated on account of free time. This raises the question: where were the ethnic minority populations, in a place like Los Angeles, especially? Issues of race and class were addressed in the march, but we witnessed a disparity between rhetoric and reality. Let us realize this rhetoric: welcome intersectional movements like #BlackLivesMatter so that environmental movements do not repeat the mistakes of their forbears: that of an environmental reductionism that ignores issues that are traditionally seen as peripheral to the movement. King’s “Beloved Community” is invoked once again.

As for the activities of the IMHO at the march, we set up a table with books and pamphlets. People showed interest, some taking a look at the literature, sometimes showing a slight jump of body or eyebrow when they read the “Marxist” portion of the IMHO banner, but no one giving looks of disapproval or the like, and one woman calling us “brave” for being out in public.