The Day Governor Cuomo Locked His Doors On the Climate Movement

On April 23, the day after Earth Day, over 1500 New Yorkers rallied and marched in Albany to call on New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo to show real climate leadership.

Their day of action, called Cuomo Walk The Talk On Climate, highlighted three demands:

1.Halt all fracked gas infrastructure

2.Move swiftly and justly to 100% renewables

3.Make corporate polluters pay

Eyeing a potential presidential bid, Governor Cuomo has often tried to portray himself as one of the nation’s top climate leaders, but the citizens who filled the streets and halls of Albany on the 23rd say he has a long way to go.

Cuomo banned fracking in 2014, and on the campaign trail this year has been increasingly touting the ban as proof of his progressive, climate leadership, all the while his administration continues to support a massive build out of fracked gas infrastructure in New York State.

The march began at the site of a proposed fracked gas power plant on Sheridan Avenue just down the hill from the Capitol Building. Governor Cuomo’s New York Power Authority wants to build a 16-megawatt fracked gas plant there to power the Empire State Plaza.

The African American community of Sheridan Hollow was poisoned for decades by a trash burning plant at the site. They are refusing to be exposed to decades more of environmental injustice and are calling on the Governor to implement a 100% renewable plan to power his administration’s buildings.

They were joined by communities from all over the state that have been put on the fossil fuel chopping block by Governor Cuomo’s expansion of fracked gas infrastructure.

Three groups from those communities, Resist Spectra, Protect Orange Countyand We Are Seneca Lake, were forced to escalate to non-violent civil disobedience when their cries to keep fracked gas infrastructure out of their communities were ignored by their elected officials.

Their actions were directed at halting the construction of the fracked gas pipeline, power plant and storage facility being built in their communities. Over a year before the April 23rd action, many of those folks fighting fracked gas infrastructure came together and decided it wasn’t enough to target the companies building the projects; it was time to escalate against Governor Cuomo who’s administration continued to provide key permits for fracked gas projects across the state.

Sane Energy Project held regional trainings that explained the history and purpose of nonviolent civil disobedience and prepared people to take direct action on April 23.

 Photo: Erik McGregor 

Photo: Erik McGregor 

And on that day with the sun shining brilliantly outside, New Yorkers filled the ‘war room’, an ornate space with glorified murals of war near the Governor’s office, and transformed it with song and art.

They rolled out a sun that said, “Sun is setting on fossil fuels, and rising on renewables” and then moved to the Hall of Governors, which leads to Cuomo’s office.

They were met with locked doors.

“They would not let us enter the Hall of Governors,” said Monica Hunken of Sane Energy Project to the group that had now begun a sit in outside the doors. “They think that a pane of glass can stop our power, can keep our message from being heard, but they are so wrong.”

 Photo: Erik McGregor

Photo: Erik McGregor

Each person then read from a red ribbon on which they had written their reason for taking action that day, and softly tied their arm to the person sitting next to them.

Many were there for their children and grandchildren. Other said they were there so David Buckel, a prominent lawyer who set himself on fire in Prospect Park recently to draw attention to climate change, didn’t die in vain.

55 people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

That day Governor Cuomo announced his support to ban plastic bags in New York, but made no mention of the 1500+ outside his window and the 55 he locked the doors on.