“I WILL NOT LET ANYBODY TAKE AWAY MY CONNECTION, MY RIVER, MY FREEDOM, MY NAME.”
That was Jansikwe Median Tayac, a young woman whose ancestors inhabited the area around the Potomac for millennia before European settlers arrived. The indigenous community joins other minorities at the frontline of a call for a decisive action on climate – steadily growing over decades, yet recently invigorated by the election of President Donald Trump and the environmental stances of his staff.
The People’s Climate March is effectively a sequel to a 2014 march in New York City, with which it shares its name and many of the same organizers. Like the first march, this weekend’s will be segmented into themes, each intended to represent groups impacted by government inaction on climate change. According to People’s Climate organizers, indigenous activists will march at the very front of the procession together with other communities at the frontline of climate action as “protectors of justice.”
Two days before a climate march expected to draw thousands to the nation’s capital, indigenous activist collectives are holding precursor actions around the city in the 48 hours leading up to the march. The goal, said attendees, is ensure their voices are heard and their demands made well known as the masses march down Pennsylvania Avenue and on toward the White House on Saturday.
Thursday: “Round Dance” at the foot of the Trump Hotel
About 100 members of the Native American community joined allies in traditional song and dance outside Trump’s Pennsylvania Avenue hotel late Thursday, ushering in an upcoming weekend of climate action in Washington, D.C.
Following the end of a nearly year-long occupation against the Dakota pipeline at Standing Rock, indigenous communities seek to take their fight to the doorsteps of the politicians who saw the project through. In that spirit, Thursday night’s “round dance,” organized by the Indigenous Environmental Network, featured a speak-out outside the Trump International Hotel, followed by jubilant round dance occupying the entire intersection of 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue for about 15 minutes.
— Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) April 28, 2017
“Indigenous communities are under attack for protecting Mother Earth and defending their inherent rights,” wrote organizers on the event’s Facebook invite. “As such, the Indigenous Environmental Network wishes to send a message to the Trump administration and its corporate interests that our Native resistance will not be silenced!”
There were no arrests, and the event remained peaceful throughout. Early on, a man with a drum suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs leading to the hotel’s entrance, well beyond the security perimeter. It wasn’t immediately clear how he’d gotten in or where he’d come from. He sang and chanted for about thirty seconds before being escorted out by security, while the rest of the crowd cheered him on.
Protesters set up a projector on the sidewalk which shone large messages across the face of the Trump Hotel, a form of non-destructive messaging which is gaining popularity among big city activists. It alternated between a number of messages, including “resist Trump” and “#IndigenousRising.”
Friday: Activists paint “Earth’s red line” across National Mall
On Friday afternoon, organizers of the round dance joined collaborative indigenous activism group It Takes Roots to paint a “red line” across the face of the District – figuratively, “to symbolize the multiple lines that must not be crossed by corporations and governments in the increasingly severe climate crisis,” and literally, a long line of people dressed in red clothes.
“It takes roots to weather the storm,” said a speaker, following a march down Independence Avenue and onto the middle of the National Mall on 3rd Street, where about 200 held the street for nearly an hour during song and dance with the Capitol in the backdrop.
The action was divided into five “blocks of struggle,” each representing a class of people impacted by systemic oppression and now finding itself at the forefront of a movement demanding climate action. Including “black struggle,” immigrant rights, and youth, each group put on a brief performance meant to capture and convey its struggle, and upcoming role in leading the People’s Climate March.
— Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) April 28, 2017
“It’s important to talk about the impact of Trump’s agenda on people and the planet,” said Cindy Wiesner, a coordinator with Grassroots Global Justice. “We believe in divestment from the militarization of the budget – we need a divestment from fear and hate, we need a divestment from the corporate greed that we’re seeing.”
Wiesner also attended the 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City, and said she noted a distinct sense of momentum in the three years leading up to its second installment tomorrow. “Our movement is moving,” she said, “we are growing, we are an unstoppable force of nature, we are seeing people come into the streets and stand with each other.”
Like the Thursday action, the “red line” march was a non-violent action resulting in no arrests or otherwise illegal activity. A group of about a dozen young Trump supporters touring the Mall briefly stopped and jeered at the march, chanting “build the wall,” and were booed by protesters before continuing on without incident.