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Climate Summit Protesters Criticize Brown, Say Bolder Action Is Needed

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Hundreds of people stopped traffic outside of the Moscone Center to protest the Global Climate Action Summit  (Anna Kusmer/KQED)

Protesters who gathered in San Francisco last week for the Global Climate Action Summit are promising to continue fighting for the end of the fossil fuel era. Hundreds of people from around the world expressed opposition -- chanting, singing, blocking traffic and burning sage -- to the political and business leaders at the summit, who they accuse of not doing enough to address the issues of social justice surrounding climate change.

“Our protests opened up a conversation about what climate action looks like,” David Turnbull said Monday. He's a member of Brown's Last Chance, a group that advocates for an end to oil and gas drilling in California. “Brown was expecting resounding applause. We brought a more critical conversation."

Marlon Santi is one of five people from the Ecuadoran Amazon who came to protest the Climate Action Summit on behalf of Indigenous peoples from all over the Americas. (Anna Kusmer/KQED)

He says although his group never entered the summit, they still accomplished their goal of amplifying criticism of Brown's climate legacy.

"We're out here trying to raise our voices to the governor who has been very resistant to taking on the oil industry," he said.

Activists also opposed market-based approaches to addressing climate change, such as California's cap-and-trade program.

There were fake mini oil rigs, which moved up and down to the rhythm of chanting as people locked arms through mock oil drums to block an entrance to the Moscone Center, site of the summit.

1000 Grandmothers for Future Generations. (Anna Kusmer/KQED)

Indigenous activists were prominent at the event -- from Nevada and Arizona, as well as international delegations from Canada and the Ecuadorian Amazon, and beyond.


"We're standing up for the water," said Roxane Blood, of the Indigenous Environmental Network. She is from the Kainai Nation, part of the Blackfoot Confederacy and came with five other indigenous women from northern Canada. "We're standing up for the water for everyone because corporations and capitalism has disregard for the land and the water."

Kwame Braxton and Justin Ransburg are two of 12 people who came from Jackson, Mississippi, to protest world leaders at the summit. Their organization is called Cooperation Jackson. "We're here to show support and make sure everyone’s voices are heard and we grow together," Braxton said. (Anna Kusmer/KQED)

At around noon Thursday, eight people from activist group It Takes Roots unfurled a banner inside the Moscone Center as summit Co-Chair Michael Bloomberg delivered a speech. The banner read "Climate Capitalism is Killing my Community." They were forced out of the room by security guards and asked to leave the summit.

Gov. Brown's office defended his climate legacy and pointed to his plan to cut fossil fuel use in half by 2030, and oil production in California has dropped 56 percent since 1985.

The organization Brown's Last Chance is calling on the governor to stop oil and gas projects in the state of California (Anna Kusmer/KQED)

“There’s a reason the White House and fossil fuel companies fight California on almost a daily basis,” said a spokesman. “No jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere is doing more on climate.”

On Thursday, two protesters were arrested in conflicts with police, 19-year-old Jiaspi Gomez from San Diego and 29-year-old Christopher Moulton.

Many came to the event to join like-minded activists. "It's not just about being in the streets, it's also about the resilience we know we have in our communities," said Kitzia Esteva a member of Bay Area social justice organization Causa Justa: Just Cause.

Kitzia Esteva, 31, says her family are climate refugees from Mexico. She is inspired by the resilience of her community. (Anna Kusmer/KQED)

Esteva considers her family to be refugees of climate change after pollution from industrial plants drove them from Mexico. She says despite her family's suffering, she is not pessimistic about the future. "Our communities are building deep solidarity and solutions with each other," she said.

Turnbull says, moving forward, Brown's Last Chance will continue to pressure the governor's office. "This was only the beginning," he said Monday. "It's the start of a critical period of taking on the fossil fuel industry from the ground up, and leaders like Brown need to take notice."

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