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The Climate March: Unity vs. JVP

Myriam Miedzian
September 22, 2014
by Myriam Miedzian climate-change-march-faireyI'VE GONE TO MANY A MARCH — from Free Algeria when I was a student in Paris, to Get Out of Vietnam, to No War in Iraq. Many of them were very large, but the People's Climate March in New York was the largest I've ever attended. At least 250,000 people, probably a lot more. I am not claustrophobic by a long shot, but the march was so dense that at some point I felt the need to march on the somewhat less crowded sidewalks for a while. My husband and I got to Central Park West and 84th Street before 11:30 and left the march at around 4 p.m. at Sixth Avenue and 59th Street. We were exhausted by then, even though, like many marchers, we took a lunch break on Columbus Avenue, where we came across friends we had not seen in years. When we left at 4:00, the march was still going strong. i loved the widespread representation — California, Georgia, North Dakota, Canada. A group of mostly African-American women from Arkansas carried "Save the Humans" signs. There was even a "Don't Frack with Texas" sign. Other great signs included "Fossil Fuels Are So Last Century," "Give Life a Chance; Say No to Planet Abuse," "Flood Wall Street," "Don't Cook Your Mother," and "Andrew, I'm a No-Frack Voter." Quaker, Jewish, Zen Buddhists, and other religious groups showed up; so did Socialists and Democratic Socialists. Puerto Ricans for Independence carried "In Solidarity with Climate Change Marchers" signs. THERE WERE A FEW SOUR OR WEIRD NOTES: One group's mantra included "Fuck the Police," one guy was walking along the sidewalk yelling, "The demonstration will have no effect if there's no violence." A man in a leopard costume and mask carried a sign saying "Protect Gay Leopards." But these were few in numbers. We couldn't help but wonder if the Koch brothers or some others like them hadn't funded some of these people in hope that their images or utterances would make the cover of the Daily News or the New York Post and discredit the march. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) was the only group we saw carrying signs that had nothing to do with climate change. Their focus was entirely on the trampled rights and mistreatment of the Palestinians. This seemed so out of touch and inappropriate for a march focused on climate change that we thought we might be seeing a misguided, maverick wing of JVP members who had decided on their own to ignore what the march was all about. But when I got home I went to the organization's website and found the following: "JVP-NYC will be joining the Climate March this Sunday afternoon with the 'Free Palestine' contingent — come march with us!" From what we could tell there was no other "Free Palestine" contingent (a few women who appeared to be Muslim followed behind the JVP group). One can only assume that for JVP, the Israel-Palestine issue is of so much greater importance than climate change that they grabbed the opportunity to publicize their outrage. The day-of and day-after media coverage I've seen of the People's Climate March has emphasized the diversity of the marchers and the fact that they conveyed one clear, concise message: Do something about climate change before it's too late. Fortunately, the media did not notice, or chose not to mention, that at least one organization was not carrying this unifying message. Dr. Myriam Miedzian (myriammiedzian.com), a member of the Jewish Currents editorial board, is a former philosophy professor who writes frequently on social, cultural, and political issues. She is the author of Boys Will Be Boys: Breaking The Link Between Masculinity and Violence.