I just spent the weekend at Powershift. Powershift is a climate summit, organized by Energy Action, organizing students and youth around global warming and climate justice issues. It featured hundreds of workshops, panels and networking meetings where youth from Alaska to Appalachia got together and educated and organized themselves to do something about the climate crisis. I mostly floated around the coal and skills-based workshops. There was a lot of energy, so much energy. Every workshop and state breakouts I attended was packed with what seemed like hundreds of youth fired up to stop global warming in it’s tracks.
Then, today was the action day. These youth are using a diversity of tactics to stop fossil fuel, banks, craven politicians and other proponents of profit over people and the planet. This morning, Powershifters lobbied their congresspeople about the issue, they had a rally at the capital and, then, RAN, Coal River Mountain Watch, SEAC and lots of friends and allies organized a non-violent direct action at a Citi bank branch in downtown DC.
There are those magic words–direct action.
Before the rally began, community members from directly impacted communities in Appalachia entered the branch to dialogue with the bank’s managment and employees about their employer’s policies. Then a group of students went in to talk with investment bankers about what the money from their student loans are being used for.
At the rally close to 300 people rallied at a park and then marched on a Citi branch. At the bank we performed a mass cough-in/die-in, dumped wheelbarrels full of coal on the doorstep and literally put that Citi branch out of business for the day using the die-in and mounds of coal as our blockades.
Along with communicating to Citi, the media and passers-by that we’re not happy that Citi funds coal from the cradle to the grave. Along with introducing a new generation of social and environmental activists to creative direct action tactics. Along with sending delegations of directly impacted community members and students to dialogue with the bank employees and managment, we literally stopped that Citi branch’s business for the day. They locked the doors (even on the ATM’s) and sent their employees home.
It was a great and empowering moment. As someone who spends a lot of time with a lot of activists across communities and movements, I saw something different today. These people, my people, are not taking “No” for an answer. And I felt suddenly very much part of a movement.