As Democratic convention opens, thousands march for clean energy

This article is part of a series on the Democratic National Convention.

PHILADELPHIA – With the sun blazing and temperatures soaring above 93 degrees, demonstrators marched to Independence Hall on the eve of the 2016 Democratic National Convention chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho, fossil fuel has got to go” and “leave it in the ground.”

The march was comprised of a vast coalition of organizations that are combating the devastating effects of climate change including and Food and Water Watch.

Hundreds of nurses wearing red hospital smocks and red caps, members of the Oakland, California-based National Nurses Union cheered as their Secretary-Treasurer, Martha Kuhl, told a pre-march news conference outside Philadelphia City Hall, “As nurses on the job we see the effects of the climate crisis, more cases of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, new rare forms of cancer. We declare the climate crisis is a public health emergency.”

She added, “We believe our brothers and sisters in the energy industry should be retrained and there should be a just transition to a non-fossil fuel economy. It is really important that we not abandon these energy workers. They are not the cause of the problem. It is the greedy, big corporations that cause the problem.”

The environmental movement must recognize that “people of color and the poor suffer deeper impacts from the climate crisis” than white people, she added.

Kuhl told the People’s World global climate change “is one of the top issues that we confront in this election. NNU has endorsed Bernie Sanders. The Republican convention? I can’t say anything nice. The fact that Donald Trump could get elected is truly terrifying.”

Robin Maguire, a leader of a grassroots movement in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, was holding one end of a giant patchwork quilt that stretched from one curb of Market Street to the other. Overhead was a banner, “We Are Lancaster County: NO PIPELINE.”

Said Maguire, “The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline is being built by the Williams Corporation. It is a 42-inch diameter, high-pressure natural gas pipeline coming down from Marcellus Shale to an export terminal at Coke Point. It is destroying our way of life and crosses sacred Native American grounds. We think we have a good chance of stopping it.”

The natural gas to be pumped through that pipeline is the product of “fracking” and many in the march carried signs and banners demanding that the federal government outlaw fracking.

John Bachtell, national chair of the Communist Party USA was leading a delegation of African American and white members of the CPUSA behind a banner that proclaimed, “People And Nature Before Profits…ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE.”

Bachtell said, “There is a world of difference in the platforms of the Republicans and the Democrats on the environment. We face an existential environmental crisis. On the one hand, Hillary Clinton has vowed to continue and step up the policies of the Obama Administration to curb greenhouse gases and work with the world community of nations to reduce global warming. On the other hand, Donald Trump is a climate change denier. He vows to trash the Paris Accords and President Obama’s agreement with China. The stakes could not be higher in the November election.”

Mark Morris carried one end of the banner of “Save Porter Ranch,” a movement that sprang up when a methane reservoir blew open near the community outside Los Angeles releasing a lethal cloud of methane that sickened thousands and forced the evacuation of 7,000 residents. It took until the end of February to seal the leak.

“It happened about the same time the Flint water crisis was in the headlines,” Morris said. “It all points to the same thing: Decaying infrastructure owned by greedy corporations that don’t care about the people. All they care about is profits. This is an ongoing disaster. There is dirty drinking water and leaking methane all over this country. Bernie Sanders was the one who came out to save us. He is the one who said global warming is the number one threat to national security.”

As the march approached its terminus on the mall in front of Independence Hall, the thousands sought shade for the speakers program. In the shade, some remnants of the so-called “Bernie or Bust movement” held their own courts. Their numbers were small when compared to those seeking a clean energy future.

One of those seeking the clean energy future was Carl, 20, a student from Green Mountain College and he spoke to People’s World about Power Shift, the grassroots youth wing of

“We’re trying to solve the problems effecting youth in the next generations,” Carl said, “primarily the fact that we’re stuck on fossil fuels as a society.

“Right now, the Democratic Convention is going on and it’s a huge opportunity. We’re not losing hope just because we have candidates in the race who aren’t supporting clean energy as much as they should be. We need to fight harder than ever before.”

Photo: Patrick J. Foote/PW


Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler estimates he has written 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper. He lives in Sequim, Wash., in the home he shared with his beloved late wife Joyce Wheeler. His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a kind of history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view.

Patrick J. Foote
Patrick J. Foote

Patrick Foote writes occasionally for People's World. At the University of Central Florida, he worked with the Student Labor Action Project organizing around the intersection of student and worker issues. He would go on to work in the labor movement in such organizations as Central Florida Jobs with Justice, AFSCME Council 79, and OUR Walmart.