On Thursday, September 5, members of Extinction Rebellion and other allied groups in Chicago, including Greenpeace, Rising Tide, the Sunrise Movement, and the APIB, the Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (site, FB) gathered on North Michigan Avenue outside of the offices of the Brazilian consulate in Chicago. More than 100 mourners gathered to register their condemnation of the fires being set in the Brazilian section of the great Amazon rainforest, hear speakers address the situation, and then march to the offices of BlackRock in the financial section of the Chicago Loop.
DePaul professor Paul Street cogently outlined the ongoing atrocity of the deliberate burning of the Amazon rainforest, which supplies more than 10% of the oxygen produced for the entire planet, and the great difficulty of regrowth after burning. He described the authoritarian trend in global leadership and how leaders like Trump and Bolsonaro enable each other and work together to enable corporate extraction of wealth everywhere and at any cost.
Extinction Rebellion Chicago member Adam Mulish effectively addressed corporate complicity in the ravaging of the Amazon rainforest and focused specifically on BlackRock, the largest U.S. asset manager, and JBS, Brazil’s largest meatpacker. JBS has been shown to buy meat from cattle raised on illegally deforested Amazon rainforest land BlackRock is a major financier and shareholder in JBS in spite of BlackRock’s professed pro-environmental policies. (For more on JBS and BlackRock, see this article in the Intercept.)
The Amazon Burns so that Black Rock Earns!
A Chicago resident hailing from Brazilian urged us to work to save the Amazon and specifically rejected the idea that the Amazon was Brazil’s property to do with as it pleased. She claimed widespread support for the policies of previous Brazilian governments that sought to protect the Amazon and charged that Bolsonaro acts only on the behalf of those that will profit and not the Brazilian people.
We then proceeded to march in mourning as a group to BlackRock’s offices in the Loop. We were mostly silent and were led by six people dressed in black and wearing animal heads. They were honoring the animals who are losing their lives and their habitats due to the fires and all the natural world that is imperiled by the fossil fuel leviathan.
Arriving at BlackRock we were met by a Chicago police officer who had been waiting for us. The doors of the building were immediately locked to stop us from entering but Extinction Rebellion members planning a BlackRock action had already entered. While mourners continued to arrive at the BlackRock offices, Extinction Rebellion Chicago member Ellen McManus spread ash on in the lobby of BlackRock’s 227 West Monroe Street offices in mourning for the Amazon until stopped by the Chicago police. Other members held a banner proclaiming “BLACKROCK EARNS AMAZON BURNS.”
On the street, mourning ended and a series of chants ensued, including “No Forests, No Life!” This was followed by a die-in in front of the locked doors of the office building. Dozens of mourners lay down on the pavement, many displaying signs testifying for life including: “OUR LUNGS ARE ON FIRE,” “STAND WITH THE GUARDIANS OF AMAZONIA,” “NO FORESTS NO LIFE,” “(Y)OUR PLANET, (Y)OUR FIGHT,” “PLANET OVER PROFIT,” “OUR HOME IS ON FIRE,” and “DECLARE CLIMATE EMERGENCY.” Ellen and others mourning in the lobby were eventually escorted out by the police without being arrested.
Action participants concluded the die-in on a high note. Plans for upcoming events, including Lisa Fithian’s talk on Friday at Women and Children First, her NVDA training on Saturday at UIC, and the Youth Climate Strike on Friday, September 20.