“WE ARE NOT PROTESTERS. WE ARE PROTECTORS.”


[There’s been much controversy lately about whether all the work that went into the People’s Climate March was worth it, and whether or not we should be supporting it. These are great and necessary conversations and arguments. Thanks for all who participate. And PLEASE LET MORE VOICES JOIN IN THESE DEBATES. It is out of this that our intelligence, creativity, and courage will be forged and reinforced.

Here’s my take on this:

Toward the end of the Vietnam War (early 70’s) and toward the end of the struggles to bring nuclear energy and nuclear weapons under control (80’s), protests grew and resistance to war and nuclear power and weapons became more and more acceptable. A snowballing of dissent and sensibility occurred. In 1973 a group of us went before the City Council in Middletown (middle of the road), Connecticut and asked the councilors to condemn the bombings of North Vietnam. The City Councilors did. At about the same time a guy in Western Massachusetts knocked down towers carrying transmission lines from a nuclear power plant. He was arrested and tried, but a jury refused to convict him. On Mayday, 1971 12,614 of us were arrested while blocking traffic in DC; eventually almost all of the charges against were dropped. In NH (a conservative state if ever there was one) 1200 people were arrested while occupying the site of the Seabrook nuclear power plant. The State of NH put them all in jail but after a week had to let them go; NH could not afford to enforce its repressive laws.

A similar snowballing of dissent and sensibility is occurring right now. The People’s Climate March this weekend, and all the smaller actions that took place in cities and towns all over the country (e.g., 150 people in Iowa City, a good crowd in Asheville, NC, etc.) demonstrates like nothing else could possibility do that many people are paying attention and becoming activated. The fact that many people in front line communities and elsewhere (in Alberta, Canada, in South Texas, in northern Michigan, in the pet coke piles of South Chicago, and on Monday on Wall Street) – are actually putting their bodies in the way of the machinery – this too is all part of this snowball we the people have created.

But it doesn’t just stop there. As many know, a local DA in Massachusetts last week dropped charges against two guys who used a lobster boat to block a ship delivering coal to a power plant. And later in the week a DA in North Carolina, which is in 2014 the epicenter of right wing extremism – this DA dropped charges against 900 Moral Monday protesters who sat in the state capitol building last year protesting repressive state policies.

The ruling class is cracking, slowly, but it is cracking under the enormous pressure, which our dissents have created. (Google just pulled out of ALEC.) We are also giving cover to conscientious government officials and corporate leaders who have been scared to do the right thing, but who are waking up to the fact that the right thing is now feasible for them, necessary for their political credibility, and essential to the survival of the planet. And the Rockefeller Foundation, heirs to one of the largest fossil fuel empires ever created, just announced it is divesting from fossil fuel investments.

Is all of this going fast enough? No. Is dissent big enough? No. Has Exxon come around? Clearly no. And are we winning? Not yet.

But, as the People’s Climate March and Flood Wall Street make absolutely obvious, we are growing, and I think our continued growth now is guaranteed. And at the same time there is much work still to be done. Can we do this fast enough to prevent out-of-control climate chaos? I don’t know. I really don’t know, and I lie awake at night worried about it.
But one thing is clear to me. I cannot think of anything better or more important to do with my time and energy than to work with you and people like you in our attempts to bring Goliath down. This life-and-death struggle (make no mistake that’s what it is) very often brings out the very best in people – their courage, their creativity, their love, their compassion, their humor, you name it. I see this all the time. This life-and-death struggle brings out the very best in people. . . you, me, and the stranger who may be standing next to us waiting for the march to begin.

What a blessing to be part of this effort to protect this magical planet we live on.

Steve Norris