Climate change marches: people demand action

More than 300,000 marchers flooded the streets of New York on Sunday in the largest climate change march in history. Also, there were 2.700 simultaneous climate events from Melbourne to Manhattan. Organizers had called the day of protests in order to put pressure on world leaders.

Organizers claimed 570,000 people protested in 161 countries. In Manhattan, the noisy, hopeful cavalcade of protesters – led by Hurricane Sandy survivors carrying placards of sunflowers and Native Americans in traditional headdresses – took over the streets of Midtown, juggling, singing, blowing synagogue shofars and conch shells, whistling and beating drums, with biodiesel-powered floats chugging along.

Leonardo di Caprio marched with Mark Ruffalo; the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, marched with the former US vice-president Al Gore. At least three Democratic members of the Senate also joined.

In London, organizers said 40,000 took to the sunlit streets and marched to the Houses of Parliament. The protest was peaceful, although loud jeers rose up as the crowd passed both Downing Street and the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The bishop of London, Richard Chartres, gave the first speech. “We are tenants, and we must keep the Earth fit for our children,” he said. “Climate change is a moral issue.”

Numerous marchers wore costumes, including a polar bear and small herd of gazelles. One of the latter, Merlin from Brighton, said: “People are important, but animals are vital as well. We are here representing all the animals not here today.” The London march ended with a minute of silent reflection, followed by loud cheers.

In Melbourne, protesters paraded a giant puppet of the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

In Paris, organisers said 25,000 people attended – heavy with the knowledge that history would be made on climate, one way or another, in the city in a year’s time. Police put the attendance at 8,000.

An Avaaz campaigner, Pascal Vollenwieder, said the global action was designed to restore the sense of momentum at the beginning of a year-long campaign leading up to the Paris conference. “This is just the starting point,” he said. “After Copenhagen, we had to show the people that there is still a climate movement.”