NEW YORK - About 310,000 protesters took to New York City streets for the People's Climate March Sunday. Coming just two days before world leaders meet for the United Nations Climate Summit, demonstrators called for a new political reality to face the threat of a warming planet.
Part parade, part protest rally, the People's Climate March filled more than 30 blocks, radiating from New York's Central Park with cries to solve the growing climate crisis.
Environmental activist and author Bill McKibben set the challenge in motion six months ago for people who cared about climate to show up in New York.
“We're pretty blown away by how many people came. This is going to be not just by far the biggest climate change demonstration ever. This is the biggest political gathering in the United States in many years,” said McKibben.
Police blocked off traffic for dozens of labor groups, indigenous people, students and teachers.
Protestors carried banners and flags, chanted prayers and slogans, and danced through the long procession on the three-hour route that led them to the United Nations. There were no speeches, just side rallies like the one held by more than 30 different faith groups.
The massive crowd waited to move out behind a Noah's Ark built especially for the occasion. Husein Rashid, a professor of Islamic studies and preacher, was on board.
“I think what it tells us is as much as we hear about religion being the cause of conflict in the world, it is also an incredible source of healing and that we all value God's creation equally,” said Rashid.
At one point, the crowd went silent to honor those affected by the threat of climate change, rising sea levels, droughts and storms.
Then a roar slowly built up like a wave through the streets, as all assembled sounded a climate alarm, blowing instruments or anything at hand.
Marching to the drumbeat, George Grusham called for clean air and clean water to sustain life.
“We love this planet. We love the ability to have a future. We want to stand up and raise our voices that those who we elect to represent us, this must be their agenda or we're not interested in them as well,” said Grusham.
That agenda includes issues of social justice, food, public health and community survival, said Winny Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International.
“We want to see action, because science tells us that if we don't act now we are heading for a planetary catastrophe. We want governments to put their economies on a path that is sustainable, that meets the needs of human beings and needs of the planet to survive,” said Byanyima.
Organizers say there are 2,600 events like this taking place in 56 countries. Whether governments around the world are up to the task is unclear.
Byanyima hopes leaders meeting for the U.N. Climate Summit take their lead from the People's Climate March for bold new action before it's too late.View full gallery