Video by Ford Fischer
Story and Photos by Alejandro Alvarez
WASHINGTON —“Rest in peace to the birds and trees,” chanted a group on Saturday calling themselves Extinction Rebellion. “Rest in peace to you and me.”
What researchers have dubbed the sixth mass extinction has activists scrambling to save a crumbling biosphere and make species preservation a central tenant of the emerging climate justice movement.
One such group, Extinction Rebellion, first drew thousands to London on Oct. 31 to highlight environmental devastation, pollution and species loss. Blocking bridges and sitting-in on the Houses of Parliament, Extinction Rebellion now boasts chapters in 35 countries around the world, including 30 in the U.S..
In its first national day of action, the young group sought an honest conversation on climate change and an acknowledgment of a “wider ecological emergency” from governments, communities and the media alike. In New York City, activists formed the group’s hourglass insignia in the middle of Rockefeller Center’s famous ice rink.
In D.C., about 30 people marched on the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History — still closed in the government shutdown’s final days — where they held a funeral to mourn the loss of Mother Nature and the “end of natural history on Earth.”
“We will dress in black, carry pictures of species already lost and bury a casket in the Earth,” the group said in a handout to media. “As part of our first national action, dozens of activists will risk arrest to educate tourists and the D.C. public to the worsening climate crisis with street theater at the Museum of Natural History.”
The group were shepherded down Pennsylvania Avenue by five people and a man in a polar costume hoisting a casket in a mock funeral procession for the planet and its destroyed and forgotten ecology. One banner read “green antifa, smash eco-racism.”
On their way to the National Mall, they stopped to face the Capitol building — per their leader, “a temple of destruction” — the Trump International Hotel, “run by an evil man” — and the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency, where they simply laughed.
There were no arrests despite a half-hour sit-in on the intersection of Constitution Avenue and 9th Street downtown. D.C. police accommodated protesters by closing off access to the 9th Street Expressway under the National Mall and restricting access to Constitution Avenue in both directions.
“Polar bear wanted to be arrested,” the bipedal polar bear told News2Share after the action was over, somewhat disappointedly.
The event ended with the summoning of a tiger spirit — in which a protester donned a paper tiger mask and emerged from a curtain of bedsheets.