Bay Area protests Paris climate talks

BY JEFF MACKLER

OAKLAND, Calif.—Organized by a broad coalition of environmental, social justice, labor, antiwar, anti-racist, and faith-based groups across Northern California, some 3000 mobilized on Saturday, Nov. 21, to demand immediate action to stop and reverse global warming and associated climate-change-influenced catastrophes.

The mobilization was part of the worldwide effort to protest the Nov. 30–Dec. 12 UN COP21 Paris climate conference, where little or no substantial actions were expected to stop and reverse the climate crisis.

Major organizing efforts began here some five months ago, an important factor that made the Oakland march and rally the largest in the U.S. to date among the many planned in cities across the country both before and after the UN-sponsored Paris talks.

Some 200 groups endorsed this action, initiated and sponsored by the Northern Climate Climate Mobilization. Fifty to sixty dedicated activists, representing almost as many organizations, met bi-weekly for months and then weekly to broaden and build this essential “movement of movements” to demand immediate action to eliminate fossil fuel-based energy systems and rapidly replace them with 100 percent clean, safe, and sustainable alternatives to “Defend the Planet.”

In fact, “Defend the Planet” against corporate and government polluters soon became the eye-catching focus of coalition flyers and of the eight-foot advertisements that were posted at seven BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train stations, at a cost of $7000. There was little or no doubt among the coalition activists that the consequences of the corporate polluter profit-driven polices to increase fossil-fuel extraction, and the government’s associated actions to promote these policies, threaten life on earth.

The high-spirited and colorful march was led by some 100 Native American Idle No More frontline community activists from Sonoma County to San Jose. It contained new, diverse—but still only modest—representation from the critically necessary sectors of the country’s labor, youth, and oppressed nationalities. The multi-cultural outpouring, included several bands and singing groups, youth contingents, socialist contingents, LGBT groups, high school student organizations, and more.

Speakers at the rally included the main leaders of the San Francisco and Alameda country labor councils, an IBEW local president, and a key representative of the California Nurses Association. All these organized modest contingents of workers in the mile-long march from the Lake Merritt Amphitheater to Oakland’s Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Civic Center Plaza. Keynote speaker May Boeve, national executive director of 350.org, stressed the need for a united mass movement to challenge the governments worldwide whose UN climate proposals fall far short of the measures needed to stop and reverse the horrific consequences of global warming.

The adopted demands included opposition to oil wars, racism, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, corporate and government-backed and implemented policies that foster increased, not decreased, fossil-fuel extraction as well demands for reparations to fund poor nations around the world to guarantee the introduction of sustainable energy systems, a just job transition for all workers at union wages, civil and democratic rights for all in a world where Black Lives Matter, for immigrant rights, and an end to environmental racism.

Following a month of democratic discussion and debate, these points of unity and demands were hammered out and adopted unanimously, an indication of the growing radicalization and sophistication of the climate-crisis movement. Indeed, the ideas presented by the local chapter of System Change Not Climate Change and various socialist groups found a hearty reception among virtually all the activist participants. See the full demands and points of unity at NorCalClimateMob.net.

A spirited and enthusiastic post-Nov. 21 evaluation meeting on Dec. 3 attributed the fact that this year’s march was not qualitatively different in size from last year’s Sept. 21 effort to the relative lack of national coordination.

It was noted that local climate actions initiated by national 350.org were organized mostly on a last-minute basis and on a number of different dates before and after the Paris talks. In contrast, last year’s Northern California mobilization significantly benefited from the “wind in our sails” flowing from the New York City mobilization of 400,000 organized by the People’s Climate March.

This year’s relatively diffuse choice of mobilization dates and organizing activity limited most U.S. actions to a few hundred participants at best. The post-COP 21 Dec. 12 national and international mobilizations promoted by 350.org and other world environmental organizations have been called to make the point that an ongoing movement is sorely need “through” Paris and afterward.

At the close of the UN conference, 350.org leaders are expected to set a national date for coordinated May 2015 spring regional mobilizations in some nine to 12 U.S. cities.

Meanwhile, the Nor Cal Climate Mob, as this new Oakland-based united front mass action coalition is popularly known, voted unanimously at its Dec. 3 evaluation meeting to continue its efforts through the spring actions.

The S.F. Bay Area branch of Socialist Action played an important role in helping to initiate the Nor Cal Climate Mob and build its September 2014 and November 2015 marches. Socialist Action’s tent was a popular rally attraction, with activists purchasing some $150 in Socialist Action newspapers and pamphlets. Forty-two participants, mostly youth, signed our mailing list for more information and to meet Socialist Action members.