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Environmental group hoists banner over iconic Citgo sign

A group called Extinction Rebellion covered the iconic Citgo sign in Kenmore Square with a giant sign that read "Climate Justice NOW."
A group called Extinction Rebellion covered the iconic Citgo sign in Kenmore Square with a giant sign that read "Climate Justice NOW."Jim Davis/Globe Staff

An environmental group unfurled a large banner reading “Climate Justice Now” across the iconic Citgo sign in Kenmore Square as the Red Sox began playing the Tampa Bay Rays in Fenway Park on Monday night.

A stiff wind dislodged the 42-square-foot banner soon after it went up, but not before images of the scene circulated broadly on social media.

Boston police responded to 660 Beacon St. and arrested eight people on trespassing charges and disorderly condcut, according to Officer Kim Tavares, a Boston police spokeswoman. They were scheduled to appear in Roxbury Municipal Court Tuesday.

They were identified as James Comiskey, 30, of Roxbury; Jason Rudokas, 43, of Arlington; Allen McGonagill, 30, of Somerville; Seward Ogden, 60, of Putnam, Vt.; Thomas Davis, 35, of Cambridge; Alexander Chambers, 21, of Boylston; William Livernois, 24, of Newnan; Ga., and Johannes Vulto, 60, of Brookline.

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The unauthorized banner was hoisted shortly before 8 p.m. by members of the group Extinction Rebellion Boston, who planned the action over several weeks to help draw attention to environmental issues, according to Matthew Kearney, a spokesman for the group.

“We think the ultimate values of the city of Boston would say climate justice is more important than fossil fuel profits,” Kearney said by phone from Kenmore Square. “We’re giving the Citgo sign a makeover — just temporary, of course — an update to the Boston skyline that matches the values of the city.”

Extinction Rebellion is an international group founded in the United Kingdom whose chapters operate without centralized leadership, Kearney said. The Boston group regularly attracted around 300 people for its actions before the coronavirus pandemic began, he said, and now has about half that many active members.

Members of the Boston and Vermont chapters collaborated on the banner, he said.

“We’re in favor of bold climate action. We’re an activist group,” he said.

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Kearney was critical of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh for taking “slim to no action” on climate change and said mitigation efforts should start with Black and brown communities that will be “on the front lines of the climate catastrophe.”

“They’re going to get hit earliest and hardest,” he said.

Representatives for Walsh did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.

A Boston Fire Department spokesman and a spokesman for the owner of the building that supports the sign also had no immediate comment.

Kearney said seven of his fellow activists in hard hats and climbing gear had posted the banner, though he could not immediately say how they obtained access to the roof of the building, owned by developer Related Beal.

Kearney said the wind was stronger than expected and tore the banner after it had been posted for a few minutes, leading the group to take it down. He stressed that the Citgo sign was not damaged.

About an hour after the banner was hoisted, more than 10 police cars, fire trucks, and other city vehicles lined Commonwealth Avenue, directing traffic around the Citgo sign, but the area was largely quiet. A large construction crane towered over the sign.

Another activist at the scene, who gave his name only as John, said the group works to get the public to pay attention to climate issues “because they’re not confronting them or not taking it seriously.”

“Why do we use this sign as an icon of our city?” he said. “It’s literally an advertisement for a toxic fuel that’s contributing to the warming of our planet.”

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Emily Sweeney of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.