Tiniest State Shows Up to One of Largest Climate Rallies Since COVID
September 18, 2023
NEW YORK — At one of the largest climate rallies in the United States (and the world) since the start of the pandemic, the littlest state represented.
Among tens of thousands of environmental activists gathered in New York City on Sunday for the March to End Fossil Fuels, dozens hailed from Rhode Island to call on President Biden to transition to renewable energy.
“It seems like they have good representation here,” one onlooker said when he discovered the team in the green shirts came from Rhode Island. He had run into two groups from the Ocean State halfway into the march.
Climate Action Rhode Island (CARI) brought a bus of more than 40 activists to the rally.
More Ocean Staters met the bus in the city. For some, it was their first time protesting anti-climate policy, while others were seasoned advocates, but most talked about how the march through New York was a moment that renewed their hope.
Participants hopped on the bus early Sunday morning with signs and snacks. During the drive, the group watched former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
David Brunetti said getting the bus together took months, but the opportunity to be together was worth it.
Brunetti, 62, got involved with environmental issues in the early 1980s but started to focus on climate change and fossil fuels after hearing a speech by Gore in the ‘90s. Sunday’s rally was his third big protest for climate justice, he said.
“You hope something actually works out because we are running out of time,” Brunetti said.
When the Rhode Islanders arrived in New York mid-morning, they unpacked their banners and signs before taking a group picture.
The activists lined up on Broadway, carrying their own messages. People with bullhorns led chants and songs.
“Hey, hey, ho, ho. Fossil fuels have got to go,” the crowd yelled in unison.
Although it wasn’t until the early afternoon that the march got going, activists shouted and cheered when they took their first few steps.
One group carried a large, inflated globe to celebrate Earth, while a man dressed as a frog carried a sign that asked, “If frogs wrote the rules, how much greener would the world be?”
From the Rhode Island group, Cassandra Bouquet, 20, wore a skirt made of protest posters.
“I wanted to do something different than just posting,” she said. “So, I just put these around a tutu.”
Bouquet, a Roger Williams University student originally from California, has been involved with environmental activism since she was a seventh-grader. She had been looking for a way to get to Sunday’s rally and was glad to find CARI was taking a bus.
Holding a pole for a large banner for the Rhode Island group, Bouquet said she found the event deeply moving.
“It’s beautiful,” she said, looking at her fellow marchers with shiny eyes.
It took hours for the large group of activists to make it from 56th Street and Broadway to 53rd and First, the little more than a mile walk toward the United Nations headquarters, where a climate summit is scheduled to held later this week.
Alice Simmons, 27, danced through the march, despite the pace and the heat when the protest moved through the sun. The slow, first few steps reminded them of the “incremental change we’ve seen,” with climate change over the years.
CARI members kept wondering how many people in total attended to create such a dense march through the city.
At the end of the march, when the protesters arrived at the rallying point on First Avenue, organizers told the crowd that more than 50,000 people had attended.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of the city, marveled at the larger than expected showing when she spoke at the end of the protest.
“We must be too big and too radical to ignore,” she said to a cheering crowd. Speaking of the need to stop the use of fossil fuels and transition to cleaner energy in an equitable manner, she told the crowd, “We’re not going to go from oil baron to solar baron.”
Kathie Gibson, of Charlestown, said that over the course of her journey with climate protests, she’s grown more specific about advocating for climate justice rather than just the environment, and even changed the sign she held for the rally from “Another Grandmother for the environment” to “… for climate justice.”
Along with her homemade sign, she carried signs made by her grandkids for a march in 2014. Bumping into a woman with a baby carriage who asked to take a photo with Gibson, she pointed at the little bundle and said, “here’s why we’re doing the march.”
Gibson said she hopes that change will spur more action. But even if Sunday’s march isn’t the event that moves the needle, she said, “I’m not gonna be quiet.”