Extinction Rebellion NYC: First Day of Action
On January 26, 2019, the grassroots climate awareness movement Extinction Rebellion conducted its first national day of action in the United States. Nonviolent direct actions were taken around the country, including in Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.
In New York, the NYC chapter of Extinction Rebellion (XR) engaged in a series of escalating nonviolent direct actions at multiple locations in Midtown Manhattan. These public acts of civil disobedience were designed to disrupt business as usual and to focus attention on the immediate and existential threat posed by climate breakdown to all life on Earth, including organized human life. This peaceful, disruptive approach was pioneered by XR activists in London, where last fall Extinction Rebellion shut down five bridges over the River Thames.
Members of Extinction Rebellion NYC (XRNYC) met at 1:00 PM on January 26th near the southeast corner of Central Park. This initial gathering set the tone for the day, with activists of all ages and backgrounds joyfully engaging in climate-related chanting, singing, dancing, and other types of performance art.
From this starting point, the crowd embarked on an unpermitted march down Fifth Avenue toward Rockefeller Center. Flanked by a growing number of NYPD officers, the protesters carried banners, waved signs, and sang songs to the accompaniment of an enthusiastic marching band
Upon their arrival at Rockefeller Center, the demonstrators divided into multiple subgroups, each dedicated to performing a particular action. Some protesters staged a large die-in while others others surrounded the square overlooking the ice skating rink, unfurling banners over the ledge. Meanwhile, other members of XRNYC blockaded Fifth Avenue near St. Patrick’s Cathedral. These activists were able to hold Fifth Avenue for nearly half an hour before the police brought the blockade to an end. Eight of these bold demonstrators were arrested and released later that evening.
Occurring concurrently with the blockade was XRNYC’s climactic climate action of the day, which took place right in the heart of Rockefeller Center. There, members of XRNYC first staged a die-in on the ice skating rink, disrupting the skaters by arranging themselves in the shape of the Extinction Rebellion symbol. Then, after a few moments, XRNYC member Greg Schwedock used a climbing harness to lower himself onto the famous golden Prometheus statue. Once situated, Schwedock hung a large banner reading “Climate Change = Mass Murder” across Prometheus's outstretched arms. The banner also announced Extinction Rebellion’s forthcoming international ‘Rebellion Week,’ beginning April 15th, 2019. This striking visual was maintained for several minutes before Schwedock descended peacefully to be taken into custody by awaiting NYPD officers.
Overall, XRNYC’s actions involved more than 300 activists and attracted large crowds of onlookers. These actions also drew the attention of multiple media outlets, including the NY Post, The Washington Times, and the New York branches of all three major American broadcast networks.
Links to photographs and media coverage are provided below. Names of those arrested are also provided.