Tens of thousands of protestors turned out for the People's Climate March Sunday in Manhattan, toting hand-held banners and paper sunflowers, chanting slogans, and demanding action ahead of upcoming the UN climate summit in New York.
Overwhelming Manhattan's seemingly unwhelmable Midtown neighborhood, demonstrators rallied together in support of Mother Earth two days ahead of the UN summit, where nations are expected to lay the groundwork for a future carbon emissions plan. Any potential binding agreement is not expected to be made until the Climate Change Conference in Paris late next year.
Organizers had expected around 100,000 people to attend but announced Sunday afternoon that more than 310,000 protesters had assembled. The impressive march, organized in conjunction with more than 2,800 events in 166 countries, couldn't have come at a more demonstrative moment — just a week after national climate scientists reported searing temperatures over the summer months that broke all records since, well, records began.
The atmosphere at the rally was more peaceful, albeit extremely loud — a carnival of interfaith groups, beekeepers, Utah moms, climate groups and animal activists, all chanting and holding banners that included phrases such as "There's no planet b," "Don't frack with us," and "I can't swim."
Samantha Bresler from Brookline, Massachusetts, said she left at 5am to ride one of more than 400 buses that shuttled people to the march.
Carrying a sign that said "this planet is a hot mess," she told VICE News she had been to several demonstrations for the environment before but never saw anything approaching the scale of Sunday's rally.
"You see all kinds of people and groups, old, young, even groups that don't really agree with each other," Bresler said. "But they're all here, to support the same thing."
Along the rally route near 58th Street, large screens broadcast video of similar rallies in other parts of the globe, from locations as far away as Turkey and South Africa.
Among the campaigners, a bevy of celebrities (Leo DiCaprio! Mark Ruffalo!), religious leaders, politicians, and prospective presidential candidates showed up to join the call for action under the watchful eye of a heavy police presence and helicopters whirring overhead.
"Fracking is a regressive technology,
— Bianca Consunji (@biancaconsunji)September 21, 2014
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who announced an overhaul of energy efficiency and greener standards for the city this weekend, was among the throng, along with many of New York's City Council and two US senators.
A package of bills pushed through by New York's Council Friday is the first step toward the city's planned commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. The legislation also aims to lower energy costs through overhauling efficiency in public buildings, promoting car-share and bicycles and green jobs, and moving away from fossil fuels. These changes, de Blasio hopes, will convince private property owners to follow suit.
The masses began congregating in and around Columbus Circle on Manhattan's Upper West Side before the march kicked off at 11:30am, creating a two-mile-long ripple through the streets of Midtown that sent traffic to a grinding halt.
Yvonne Cather came with a delegation of 70 people representing different community groups in Wichita, Kansas. "It turned out wonderful," she told VICE News. "You gotta take it to the streets and here we are. They said it's four miles of us."
"But this is not it, this is just the beginning," Cather added.
At 1pm, a moment of silence was briefly observed before being broken by a cacophony of party horns, bicycle bells, whistles, bubble wrap — anything marchers could get their hands on — to make some noise to sound the sharp alarm of climate change.
A massive block party planned on 11th Ave. between 34th and 38th Streets was scheduled to wrap up the march and kick off additional festivities.
VICE News' Alice Speri contributed to this report.
Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields