“There is no time to waste,” say organizers, “our economic system must be transformed.”
Hundreds of activists stormed the streets of the San Francisco financial district on Monday in a mass march and action aiming to “shut down” the system of “climate profiteering.”
Protesters marched down the city’s main thoroughfare, Market Street, and managed to block morning traffic for nearly an hour. Some demonstrators painted an impromptu mural while others blocked the entrances inside the Bank of the West Headquarters, prompting the San Francisco police department to shut down the entire building and make arrests. According to initial reports, 7 demonstrators were arrested for remaining in the street and there were reports of 15 arrests overall.
Dubbed “Flood Wall Street West,” the action comes just over one year after protesters held a mass sit-in on Wall Street in New York City to highlight the ties between capitalism and planetary destruction. Both demonstrations were organized under the banner “Flood The System,” a decentralized series of actions taking place in the months leading up to the UN climate talks in Paris later this year.
However, organizers say that left to their own devices, “Governments and corporations will only address the crisis we face with negotiations that propose minor changes and sustain capitalism. They only divert attention away from systems of white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy and fossil fuel extraction that created the crisis we face.”
The movement is based on the idea that it is up to the people “to say enough is enough, connect our struggles, and shift power back to our communities.”
An online statement about Monday’s action described how many of the institutions and industries specific to the Bay Area have profited directly “off of environmental injustice, economic exploitation, and oppression.” They write:
In the East Bay, five of Big Oil’s refineries spew carbon and other pollutants poisoning our communities and scorching the climate. Further East and South, oil and gas companies populate the skyline of the Central Valley with fracking wells.
Chevron, perpetrator of climate, environmental and human rights crimes across California and the world, sprawling world headquarters is safely nestled in the Bay’s affluent suburb of San Ramon.
To the south, tech giants like Google and Facebook perpetrate a new class warfare in the Bay area through gentrification and rising property rates. Homelessness and working class displacement are on the rise, while resources for essential services dwindle away. Furthermore the movement of Silicon Valley north turning San Francisco into a city devoid of culture and diversity.
In the heart of San Francisco is Wall Street of the West, the largest financial district west of the Mississippi. One of the largest banks in the country, headquartered in the financial district, is Wells Fargo, a predatory lender and financial backer of crushing economic inequality and the prison-industrial complex.
“There is no time to waste—our economic system must be transformed,” the organizers state. “Through the power of people taking collective action we will build a future based on justice and sustainability and stop the climate crisis.”
This post first appeared in Common Dreams.