Climate change activists are planning another morning rush hour shutdown for Friday in downtown Washington — their second this week — amid criticism that traffic-stalling protests create more frustration and pollution than awareness.
“Global warming does not stop for morning rush hour, neither will we,” says a press release from the Coalition to Shutdown DC.
Although details have not been finalized about which intersections will be shutdown, the press release states that the unpermitted protest and parade will be focused near McPherson Square starting at 7 a.m.
The press release says the group will march throughout downtown and stop at a variety of “climate criminals”:
⦁ BlackRock, a global investment firm located in the 1400 block of New York Avenue NW.
⦁ Trump International Hotel, in the 1100 block of Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
⦁ Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, in the 1200 block of Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
⦁ Wells Fargo bank, which has several branches and offices in the District.
On Monday morning, hundreds of coalition protesters blocked nearly two dozen intersections by shackling themselves to ladders, cars, even a sailboat. Friday’s demonstration is expected to be a smaller protest, the coalition said.
“Having motorists sit for four or five hours, the emissions from that are a blip compared to the emissions that are going to be spewed into the atmosphere if we let the crisis go on,” said a spokesperson with the Coalition to Shutdown DC. “Yes, that is a criticism we are aware of it is an insignificant drop in a vast, vast ocean.”
But John Townsend, spokesman for the car owners club AAA Mid-Atlantic, pointed to studies showing that cars running at 5 mph produce twice as much carbon dioxide as those operating at 35 mph.
“So this form of protest actually increases greenhouse gas emissions, exactly what we are trying to prevent,” Mr. Townsend said in an email.
What’s more, he noted that Monday’s protesters chose “some of the busiest intersections” in the city, whose roads already are over capacity for traffic.
The District sees 1.9 million vehicle trips every day and has the third worst gridlock in the country after Los Angeles and San Francisco, he added.
“Protests like this, especially when it impacts an intersection, underscores the fragility of our transportation system,” Mr. Townsend said.
The Coalition to Shutdown D.C. is made up of various groups, including Black Lives Matter DMV, Labor Network for Sustainability, Metro DMV Democratic Socialists of America, Movement for a People’s Party, Rising Tide North America, Sunrise Movement DC, and Werk for Peace and World Beyond War.
The coalition said it is aiming to raise awareness of climate change and is asking political leaders to:
⦁ Take action to halt all fossil fuel extraction and transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030
⦁ Respect land sovereignty of indigenous peoples.
⦁ Invest in restoring impoverished communities adversely affected by climate change.
⦁ Protect and restore biodiversity
⦁ Implement sustainable farming practices.
Metropolitan Police arrested 26 people during Monday’s protest for obstructing a roadway, all of whom were released that day because they either paid a fine to waive the citation or did not pay a fine and have a court date next week, a department spokesperson said in an email.
U.S. Capital Police arrested six protesters.
The city government is encouraging commuters Friday to take alternate routes to work, use public transit and to sign up for AlertDC traffic notifications.
Mr. Townsend suggested working from home, if possible, as well.
Climate activists should rethink their tactics and focus their protests on the people responsible for U.S. inaction — the President and Congress — not the innocent working people of the Washington Region, who have enough trouble getting to work as it is,” he said in an email. “Next time, stay off the main commuter routes, and if you must, focus protests around the White House and the Capitol where the problem resides.”