On a day when world leaders discussed climate change at the United Nations Wednesday, environmental activists marched through downtown Boston during the morning commute, slowing down traffic and closing one side of a bridge in the Seaport, an area prone to flooding.
For more than two hours, starting shortly after 7 a.m., activists with Extinction Rebellion Boston protested the use of fossil fuels, a leading contributor to climate change around the globe.
“We want these corporations to knock it off and stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Miia Zellner, 21, who traveled from Lewiston, Maine with her partner to take part.
“The climate emergency brought me down here,” said Brian Bascom, 29, of Malden, as he stood on a sidewalk handing out fliers. “The recent disastrous flooding in both Pakistan and Puerto Rico brought me here … and the knowledge that that’s going to happen here, if we don’t change our trajectory.”
Bascom said he and other activists want to see more action, and for the government to “get serious about the climate emergency and not kick the can down the road.”
The protest came just over a month after Governor Charlie Baker signed a major climate bill into law, which aims to accelerate clean energy and allows some communities to ban fossil fuels on the local level.
The group originally planned to disrupt traffic near South Station, the off-ramp of the Mass Pike near South Station on Kneeland Street, and in Post Office Square “to demand that the State of Massachusetts ban new fossil fuel infrastructure.”
But by 7:40 a.m., amid a heavy presence of both Boston and State police, Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Alex Chambers told the Globe that the group had canceled those efforts and instead decided to march to Seaport Boulevard.
As they crossed the bridge into the Seaport, one protester — dressed in an orange Extinction Rebellion shirt and neon green vest — attempted to hand fliers to the drivers of stopped cars. Most kept their windows closed.
While they stood on the Seaport Boulevard bridge, which is formally known as the Evelyn Moakley Bridge, the activists unfurled a large banner emblazoned with a drawing of an hourglass and the words “UNDERWATER BY 2050, ACT NOW” written in bold black capital letters.
A little after 9 a.m., while walking on Purchase Street on their return to Post Office Square, one passerby, who said she lives in the neighborhood but declined to give her name, rode up on a bike and accused the protesters of blocking students’ routes to school.
“Don’t you care about the children?” She called, following alongside the marchers for at least two blocks. “You’re acting like a child, walking on the streets, this is where cars go!”
Through a megaphone, one protest organizer told the crowd to get “nice and comfortable” and “nice and spread out.”
The crowd led call-and-response chants and a climate-focused parody of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the green,” they sang.
We are monitoring protestors who have announced plans to block traffic this morning. A short time ago we took five of them into custody on the ramp from Leverett Circle to Route 93 in Boston. We continue to monitor potential protest activity throughout Greater Boston.— Mass State Police (@MassStatePolice) September 21, 2022
Extinction Rebellion planned the march as part of its self-proclaimed “week of rebellion” to demand a shift from an economy and society relying on fossil fuels for energy needs to one that uses renewable energy alternatives, according to the group’s postings on social media.
Ten of the protesters were arrested by Boston police, according to Boston Police spokesman Sergeant Detective John Boyle, Five protesters were taken into custody by State Police on the ramp from Leverett Circle to Interstate 93, State Police said in a tweet. State Police said troopers also seized two vehicles that the protesters had parked to block traffic at the busy intersection, including a pickup truck carrying three 55-gallon steel drum barrels known as “sleeping dragons,” which are typically used by protesters to secure themselves together.
The protesters who were arrested were later arraigned in either Boston Municipal Court or Charlestown District Court, police said. All were released on bail, pending their next court hearings, officials said.
Steve Annear, John R. Ellement, and Cynthia Needham of the Globe Staff and correspondent Camilo Fonseca contributed to this report.
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