Hundreds of demonstrators calling for action to protect the environment spent more than two hours during the Friday afternoon commute blocking the Congress Street bridge that spans Boston’s Fort Point Channel.
One banner, held by a group of demonstrators in the middle of the street, read, “Declare Climate and Ecological Emergency.” Protesters chanted messages such as, “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!” At one point a brass band started playing.
The bridge was shut down in both directions shortly before 4:30 p.m. and reopened to vehicles at 6:50 p.m.
On the bridge’s steel girders high above Congress Street, activists tacked a sign reading, “Tell the truth. Declare climate emergency.” Other signs read, “Head for the hills,” and, “Flood the Seaport.”
The demonstration was organized by Extinction Rebellion, which describes itself as a international grassroots movement that aims to help “humanity to turn quickly onto a course that is compatible with life on earth, and to build resilient communities in the face of ecological and societal crisis.”
Friday’s action on Congress Street was intended to raise awareness about the climate crisis and “demand that the Massachusetts and federal government tell the truth about the climate emergency and implement aggressive policies to protect people and ecosystems from greater harm,” according to organizers. There were no reported arrests in connection with the demonstration, a Boston police spokesman said Friday night.
D.J. Hatfield, a 50-year-old professor from East Boston, was among those demonstrating on the bridge. Gesturing toward the six-story brick buildings that line Congress Street, he said that unless action is taken, the block could be underwater in the decades to come.
“The climate crisis is the defining issue of this century,” he said. “What we do right now will greatly influence whether our civilization or our species will survive in the next century.”
Dan and Martha Smith, 69-year-old retirees from Lebanon, N.H., attended the demonstration with their daughter and granddaughter. Dan Smith said he wants to see a change in the federal government’s priorities.
Martha Smith, holding a sign that read “1,000,000 more species soon gone forever,” said the US re-joining the Paris climate accord — from which President Trump withdrew the nation in 2017 — “would be a good start.”
“We’re trying to do our little bit,” said Dan Smith.
Liam Kelley, a 20-year-old Winchester resident who works at a supermarket, said, “Hopefully things will become more green.”
“Who are we to ruin it for everyone else?” he asked.
Sophie Waterhouse, an 18-year-old Tufts University freshman who grew up in Princeton, wanted her school to divest from fossil fuels and called for “more investment in sustainable industries.”
“We need systemic change on a large scale that allows for a more sustainable future,” she said.
Another demonstrator, Jenny Komatsu, a 49-year-old Jamaica Plain resident who works at an AIDS education and training center, wants to see a host of changes. She wants tougher regulations governing carbon emissions and gas consumption, as well as better rules that encourage more recycling. She talked about a plastic ban and the need to “reign in our consumerism.”
“People need to work together,” she said, “and we need a legal system that promotes these projects.”
Danny McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.