In Solidarity with Amazonia, Extinction Rebellion Dances in the Streets of Manhattan


As an inferno consumes the Amazon rainforest, on Thursday September 5, during rush hour in midtown Manhattan, a group of dancers entered the intersection of 58th and 6th Ave and gathered in a circle in front of a banner spanning the crosswalk: ACT NOW FOR AMAZONIA. This guerilla performance reached a fever pitch to Afro-Brazilian rhythms played on a djembe drum, culminating in a primal scream as dancers collapsed in a die-in. 

Answering a call to action from Amazon Watch and the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), these members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) danced in the streets to speak against ecocide and genocide in the Amazon. This unprecedented level of assault on the world’s most biodiverse ecosystem threatens all life on Earth by accelerating global heating and the extinction of species—including our own. Extinction Rebellion’s group comprised of native New Yorkers and Brazilian-American dancers and activists performed together in a spirit of love and rage.

Throngs of pedestrians gathered to watch the swarm of performers whose wild movements were inspired by the animals of the rainforest. The choreography was designed to express grief and indignation over this assault on the planet and to show solidarity with Amazonia—home to 10% of the world's biodiversity, and four hundred indigenous cultures. This ecosystem has suffered the most widespread and rapid destruction in a generation after the Brazilian regime lifted environmental protections, and fueled a violent land grab that has murdered, threatened and displaced indigenous communities who protect the rainforest. Financiers have enabled these atrocities, and so, inadvertently, have American consumers. Global demand continues to drive Brazilian farmers and loggers to burn and clear rainforest for cattle ranching and soybean production. In the last year, the region has seen an alarming 84% increase in fires and deforestation while the government has failed to address the crisis and denied responsibility. 

After one die-in, a member of the XR protest spoke on a megaphone at 51st and Lexington:  “The Amazon is burning. But we will not go quietly. We will not die here. We are alive and we are fighting back. We rise!” While drivers honked their horns, pedestrians clapped and cheered. Several New Yorkers thanked the group. At 53rd Street and 6th Avenue, the dance swarm joined a contingent of Brazilian activists led by the group Defend Democracy, who marched from "Little Brazil."  

Allies of the Amazon gathered outside of the Mission of Brazil to the United Nations, joining in chants, "Ecocide is Suicide!" "Amazonia is burning, Put out the Fires." Natalia de Campos of Defend democracy led the rally along with 12 coalition groups present. Xiye Bastida, a 17 year-old activist representing Extinction Rebellion Youth——whose name means "Rain" in the language of her Otomi culture——called for immediate action to halt the devastating effects of a climate emergency that is already underway. 

Global solidarity with Brazil’s indigenous and environmental movements can make an enormous difference at this critical moment. Earlier in the day, a Quechua activist, Maya Ajchura Chipana, and Abolition Rojas led a vigil for the Amazon outside of BlackRock, a financial corporation that profits from investments in the Amazonian agribusinesses most responsible for deforestation. As Chipana and Rojas led a group of supporters in a ceremony beside a temporary shrine, businessmen on their lunch break stood by BlackRock’s revolving doors, observing the ceremony in silence. 

Flyers distributed by Extinction Rebellion declared: "Fires raging in the Amazon accelerate climate breakdown and mass extinctions. This assault threatens every living thing, including human civilization as we know it... We must stand up for the rights of the 400 indigenous cultures (of the Amazon) and help them protect the rainforest and its species. We have a duty to act now and protect Amazonia while we still can. Life itself depends on it."

The rally at the UN Mission to Brazil ended with a procession of supporters holding signs and flowers, together reciting the names of rainforest species that could soon vanish: 

“Jaguar, Capybara, Three Toed Sloth..." 

The heartbeat of a drum accompanied these chants as traffic rolled by on 3rd Avenue. This was one of thirty actions for Amazonia that took place around the world on this day. 

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