By: Peter Zibinski
On Sept. 21, 2014, there was a flood on 8th Ave. The NYPD made a valiant attempt to reroute traffic, but the torrent quickly overran the officers. Wave after wave of people streamed onto the already overflowing street. Before long, we formed a river that stretched 30 blocks through the heart of Manhattan. All of us unified by a shared message: Humanity is a gravely endangered species.
Standing atop a police barricade, the throng below me extended endlessly in either direction. All manner of signs, flags and banners floated atop the procession. People were packed so tightly that from my vantage point I could see the combined heat of their bodies distorting the horizon. Despite the humidity, the air crackled with palpable excitement.
At exactly 12:58 p.m., an eerie hush fell overthe crowd. For the next two minutes more than 400,000 people stood in silence with hands raised, paying homage to those already affected by climate change. Following the Moment of Silence was the Sounding of the Alarm. At 1:00 p.m., the march roared back to life as shouting voices, drums, and even car horns joined forces. The sound reverberated between buildings with such ferocity that the air around us seemed to shimmer and shake. Braving the tremendous noise, police officers removed barricades at the march’s head. The floodgates were opened and under a barrage of camera flashes, the procession surged ahead.
THE PEOPLE…UNITED…WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED.
From time to time a chant would rise up from the crowd, swelling in numbers until entire blocks were yelling in unison.Eventually they would die down, only to be reincarnated by a group 20 blocks away. Despite the name, there was very little marching. Instead we danced and skipped and sauntered our way through the city. Indigenous peoples performed traditional dances a few steps behind a motorized Noah’s Ark. A scale model of the earth floated gracefully amongst the marchers while children played beneath a painted parachute. Above it all, the sweet sounds of revolution echoed through the streets.
Surrounded by hundreds of thousands of other impassioned individuals, I danced happily through midtown Manhattan, sharing ideas and stories with people of all walks of life. This energy exchange with my brethren had a serious impact on my perception of time, as some 80 odd blocks passed virtually unnoticed beneath my feet. Though the march lasted more than three hours, it felt closer to a couple minutes. The ending was abrupt. With a turnout that far exceeded expectations, organizers were forced to disperse the crowd unceremoniously.
My return to city life was quite jarring. In one moment, I was a participant in history’s largest climate march. In the next, I was a college student frantically looking for a bus. Though it passed far too quickly, my time in the People’s Climate March was borderline psychedelic and it forever changed my view of our environmental crisis. That afternoon, signs were discarded, barricades were removed, and the streets were reopened. The march came to an end but the movement, and its message, lives on.
WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED
For more information about Peter’s experience, see our PCM gallery.