“ROAD CLOSED. CLIMATE EMERGENCY”: Millennials Are Shutting Down D.C. to Make You Pay Attention

At one intersection, they chained themselves to a pink and yellow yacht.
Environmental activists block an intersection as they gather to protest to shut down the city during global climate action week on September 23, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.

WASHINGTON — Four lanes of traffic on 16th and K Streets NW in Washington, D.C., came to a standstill as climate activists chained themselves to a pink and yellow yacht stamped with “REBEL FOR LIFE.”

In another part of town, police officers shut down traffic as they towed a van taped over with a sign reading “ROAD CLOSED. CLIMATE EMERGENCY” — while a protestor clung perilously to its roof.


Those are just two of the estimated 22 intersections that were shut down on Monday by a coalition of youth-led activist organizations, including Extinction Rebellion, 350 Action, Black Lives Matter, and the Democratic Socialists of America. Bearing signs reading “CAUTION: FLOOD ZONE,” and “OIL KILLS,” the activists targeted key sites across the city, including the White House, the headquarters of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the American Petroleum Institute — one of the largest fossil-fuel lobbying groups in the world.

“In the United States, through the radically pro-pollution policies of the Trump administration, we are pushing our planet Earth further and further outside of its comfort zone,” protestor Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network Action Fund, said in a statement on the coalition’s website.

“Which means concerned Americans like me must push ourselves further and further outside our own comfort zones in an effort to pressure our leaders to finally solve this crisis,” Tidwell continued.

Planned using the hashtag #ShutDownDC, the protests come as United Nations member countries meet in New York to discuss the climate crisis — and days after millions of people around the globe marched en masse to demonstrate against government inaction on climate change. The U.N. also hosted a Youth Climate Summit this weekend — although the young activists weren’t exactly pleased with the social media workshops they received when they'd instead expected a real discussion about climate policy.


One of Monday’s largest protests occurred along K Street NW, a business corridor that’s long been the symbolic nexus of political power and lobbying in the U.S.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department told VICE News that, as of 10:30 a.m. local time on Monday morning, officers had made 26 arrests “in regards to the First Amendment demonstration due to blocked traffic.” The spokesperson did not respond to VICE News’ inquiry about how many additional officers it dispatched to control the crowds.

Reporters following the protests noted that police began making arrests early on Monday, particularly along the most-trafficked intersections.

In other parts of the city, protestors shut down major five-lane roads, as well as on-ramps to the highway. Buses heading downtown had to re-route, if they could even travel at all.

Protestors also closed much of Independence Ave., a central boulevard that runs along the National Mall and offers entry to a number of national monuments and Smithsonian museums.

Members of the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter protested outside of Amazon’s D.C. headquarters on New Jersey Ave. NW, carrying a sign reading “CAPITALISM IS KILLING THE PLANET.”

And at one intersection, protestors set a dumpster on fire.

It was an appropriate day for the protest. On Monday, the first day of fall, temperatures in D.C. are expected to hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cover image: Environmental activists block an intersection as they gather to protest to shut down the city during global climate action week on September 23, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)