Park Slope

Protesters promise escalating action to combat climate policy

"People need to get in the streets and begin disrupting things — then people will notice."

July 15, 2019 Paul Stremple
Protesters from Extinction Rebellion. Eagle photo by Paul Stremple
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A newly-formed Park Slope climate advocacy group marched through Prospect Park on Saturday morning with signs, flyers and promises of escalating action.

Gathering at the archway of Grand Army Plaza and marching through the park to the Ninth Street exit, the group — a chapter of environmental-activism group Extinction Rebellion —  carried props representing carbon emissions. Event organizer Jesse Ortiz called the march a “serious but fun” procession, as the group handed out flyers to surprised park-goers along the way.

Ortiz, 25, said the goal of the event was to raise awareness of the group’s inclusive mission of climate advocacy and decentralized direct action.

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“Anyone can be a member as long as you agree with our principles,” said Ortiz.

Those principles include non-violent action and leaving one’s comfort zone to advocate for change, according to the Extinction Rebellion website.

Some Brooklynites were less moved to participate than others. Eagle photo by Paul Stremple

Nearly 50 protestors marched through the park, singing and chanting slogans, stopping to form a large circle where participants were encouraged to address the group.

Tom Schloegel, 53, spoke out about the “toothless” resolution in which New York City legislators declared a climate emergency. He encouraged those gathered to contact their city councilmembers and advocate for legislation that would have environmental impact.

That means more public transit options and less cars on the streets, he said, along with stricter building efficiency standards. Recently, state legislators voted to triple the tax break offered to developers for the construction of green roofs on New York’s buildings.

The hit-and-run flyering and chants of the group may not have broken through the weekend park reverie for many Brooklynites, but Schloegel saw the action as an important step in community building for the fledgling chapter.

Though Ortiz told the Brooklyn Eagle that there were no plans for any participants to get arrested at this weekend’s event, both he and Schloegel said the Park Slope chapter of Extinction Rebellion would start engaging in civil disobedience actions aimed at disrupting business and drawing greater attention to the climate emergency.

“Petitions and rallies haven’t made a difference,” Schloegel said. “People need to get in the streets and begin disrupting things — then people will notice.”

Last year, prominent human rights lawyer and environmental activist David Buckel set himself on fire in Prospect Park, his suicide by self-immolation and act of protest against the climate crisis. Before the Extinction Rebellion action, Ortiz described Buckel’s death as a “harrowing and meaningful gesture,” but admitted he’d only heard about the incident recently.

Still, he said he hoped the march would be able to reach Brooklynites while they spent their Saturday at the park, raising awareness of the ongoing fight. Extinction Rebellion is a global organization, and Ortiz has high hopes for its future here in Brooklyn.

“We’re trying to build a movement,” he said.

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