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Opinion

New York protest breaks record

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October 24, 2014

Last spring, I took a trip to Washington, D.C. with the UW-River Falls Environmental Corps of Sustainability (ECOS) to protest in front of the White House. 398 people got arrested, setting a record.

Another record was set over a month ago when I traveled with ECOS to New York City for the Global Climate March.

Starting next to Central Park in Manhattan, 400,000 people massed together to march 26 blocks. It became the biggest climate change event in history.

When the trip to New York City started, I didn’t know how big it was going to be.

ECOS was there to represent its campus and the state of Wisconsin. We went there to gain knowledge about furthering local efforts. By the end, we had expanded to thinking system-wide.

The hard facts of the event in New York City have been scooped up and covered by the professionals.

The trip only cost $100. We got scholarships from “350,” which is an organization that is a symbol for climate change. The number signifies parts per million.

I started the trip in River Falls by scaling a wall and getting to an apartment balcony to slip through the sliding door to roust one of the nine other people I would be going with, who decided to take a quick nap and pull an all-nighter to knock out his sleep on the bus.

Once in the Twin Cities, we met up with the all of the other regional participants and obtained spots on the buses.

There were six buses total. Andy, from 350, and one of the bus captains said they had previously only taken two before, so we set yet another record.

The media send-off was the first inkling of how huge this event would become. The prominence of what happened kept getting padded as the trip came to an end. It made the front page and many millions were withdrawn from oil companies.

We stopped in Eau Claire and Madison to fill the buses. The bus ride took 24 hours total. A long road trip with a bunch of people in confined spaces for substantial amounts of time automatically garners a certain friendship by the end of it. The difference of the interaction on the bus from beginning to end was a major contrast. What set it off was an exercise of rotating in seats to converse with other people, but some of the conversations branched into deep topics.

We arrived in New York City Saturday morning. Holyrood Episcopal Church generously let us have their floor for the weekend. We got updates domestically from the 350 chapters from across the country. I learned that Europe, South Africa and Australia are a part of 350. One thing we learned was that 90 percent of huge social movement events like the Global Climate March is “follow up.” After the events, organizations have to continue the communication by other means.

For ECOS, this means going bigger with our campaign and connecting with the rest of the UW System.

A man flagged me down, noticed my shirt saying that “we the people are greater than fossil fuels,” told me I was wrong, and handed me a piece of paper with another man’s name on it. We talked for over 10 minutes and what I remember most is how he told me oil was an infinite resource.

We fought for everyone: the fully grown blue booted times square baby, the passed-out, motionless Homer Simpson character at a streetlight, the nearly naked women with paint, and even the criminal who broke into a car when we got back.

We did get some of the New York City happenings that people think of. “Death City” had us on edge.

First off, before I get into it, our trip started off with a member’s apartment.

On a street corner, I got a CD shoved into my hands so I walked away thinking it was free. In a sense, I unintentionally almost hustled someone. Then one of us got fully hustled. A member got demanded of money after getting CDs shoved in his hands.

It is hard to ignore the hypocrisy of us using thousands of gallons of fossil fuel to get the hundreds of thousands of people together to make the event happen. The thing is that I can’t think of a better way to burn the fuel than the biggest march for climate change ever assembled. And it kept getting bigger and bigger.

Jack Haren is a journalism student with a political science minor. His free time is spent snowboarding, skateboarding, reading, writing, designing, listening, experimenting and living minimally. In the future he wishes to freelance and travel the world.