Climate activists blocked traffic outside South Station in Boston during Thursday’s morning commute, halting drivers as they called on Governor Maura Healey to ban “new fossil fuel infrastructure.”
Around 7:50 a.m., demonstrators in neon safety vests and blue T-shirts stopped traffic at a busy intersection outside the train station, causing backups along Summer Street and several roads in the area. The protesters left the street after about 15 minutes and traffic began to move freely, police said.
Twenty people were arrested on charges of unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct, police said.
Traffic Advisory: Due to a protest in the South Station area, traffic is impacted, please seek an alternative route. Boston Police are on scene.— Boston Police Dept. (@bostonpolice) September 21, 2023
The protest came a day after the United Nations held a Climate Ambition Summit, convened by Secretary General António Guterres, who warned that the world’s leaders are doing too little to curb pollution and said the “gates of hell” are at hand. The summit coincided with Climate Week in New York City, where thousands of protesters took to the streets Sunday demanding an end to fossil fuels.
Thursday’s protest in Boston was the latest by Extinction Rebellion Boston, a local chapter of a global environmental group that has staged several protests around the city this year, going back to January when they rallied outside the construction site of a new Eversource substation in East Boston. In June, four members were arrested after hopping a fence surrounding the site and having a picnic in the gravel lot.
Earlier this month, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum closed early one night after learning that the group planned to protest inside the cultural institution. A similar protest planned in March had also led the museum to close its doors for a day.
On Thursday, the group said in a statement that it is demanding that the Healey administration commit to “opposing all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects, including the expansion of airports and gas connections in new buildings.”
Some protesters demonstrated on the sidewalk after police arrived. Some activists held a large banner that read “No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure” and signs calling for Healey to stand against fossil fuels.
The group is seeking a ban on fossil fuel power plants, residential and commercial gas connections, new and expanded natural gas distribution pipelines, new liquified natural gas production and storage facilities, new gas stations, and new airports, according to the statement.
“I don’t understand why the governor and her climate chief are not taking the first step to dealing with the climate emergency,” Alex Chambers, the group’s spokesperson, said in a statement. “As a young person, my entire future is riding on our government taking action this decade, and not waiting until 2050. Do the right thing. Introduce a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure.”
Healey’s office could not immediately be reached for comment. After taking office in January, Healey signed an executive order to create the Office Of Climate Innovation and Resilience and appointed Melissa Hoffer as the state’s first climate chief, a Cabinet-level position.
Speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative on Monday during New York’s Climate Week, Healey announced she has ordered state agencies to stop buying single-use plastic bottles, making Massachusetts the first state in the nation to do so.
Healey said she will direct state agencies to establish biodiversity conservation goals for 2030, 2040, and 2050, and develop strategies to meet the targets. Both announcements will be formalized in executive orders the Healey administration said would be released Thursday.
Those targets would likely include requirements that certain amounts of land be protected, with specific requirements for critical ecosystems such as salt marshes or rivers and streams where biodiversity is threatened.