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Initial reports estimated 110,000 attendees, but as the day continued, the numbers grew to epic proportions. By 3:00pm estimations grew to 310,000, and at 5:00pm reports indicated that tens of thousands more had flooded the streets and sidewalks of Midtown Manhattan. Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance exclaimed, “We said it would take everyone to change everything — and everyone showed up.”

The march was led by communities hit the hardest by the effects of climate change across the world, from survivors of Superstorm Sandy, storms, floods and drought, to the people living in coal-fired power plant communities and areas withstanding the effects of fracking. With a flying banner that read on one side, “Frontlines of Crises,” and the other, “Forefront of Change,” they led 400,000 others representing labor groups, interfaith communities, families, anti-corporate campaigns, and dozens of other groups advocating for peace, justice and more.

In a rare sequence of events, several labor unions marched alongside environmental groups in the fight for climate change. Historically, unions and environmentalists have rarely come together in support of the same cause, but history was made as nearly every New York labor union played a part in the march, including SEIU, the second largest in the nation. Héctor Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, said, “We live in the communities that get destroyed by storms like Sandy. We work in the buildings that get flooded. We get hit by health epidemics like asthma that are rampant in our communities, and we care about the world that we will leave for our children and grandchildren.”

At 12:58pm a planned moment of silence came to fruition, as thousands of people extended their arms in the air at once, until hundreds of thousands lining the streets of Manhattan came to a dead silence all at once. And at 12:59 a gradual wave of cheers flooded in from behind, sweeping through in a cinematic rush of energy to the forefront of change.

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peoples climate march
Image by Oscar Soria via Twitter.

As promised, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined in, the march itself being spurred by his invitation for world leaders in government, business and industry to meet for a special Climate Change Summit this coming Tuesday 23 September, at UN Headquarters in New York. A long list of notable faces on the front lines of climate change included former Vice President Al Gore, Leonardo Dicaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Edward Norton and Sting.

Our experience and reports are showing that the New York People’s Climate March was huge. Elsewhere in the world, over 25,000 people were reported to have marched in Paris, and thousands more in London and Rome, from Amsterdam to Kathmandu. In an amazing show of solidarity, over 150 countries have pledged their support by arranging over 2,000 rallies for action on climate change and are sharing their efforts online.

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Environmentalists of all ages have come to support the cause!

The People’s Climate March was first announced in May 2014, when Bill McKibben, founder of the environmental organization 350.org, penned “A Call to Arms” in the Rolling Stones magazine, a public invitation for a climate change march that would coincide with September’s scheduled U.N. Climate Summit.

In an interview with the New Yorker, McKibben says that while he does not expect immediate results, the goal for the march will be to put pressure on the world leaders by amassing one of America’s biggest political gatherings in recent years as a warm-up for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris. “The real point of building a movement to provide a countervailing power to the fossil-fuel industry,” McKibben says. “Right now, leaders are afraid of them, but we need them to be afraid of people as well.”

+ People’s Climate March

Images and videos by Jill Fehrenbacher, Laura Mordas-Schenkein, AnaNewYork and Oscar Soria.