‘Bodies on the line’: why climate protesters risked arrest to block BlackRock

Demonstrators blocked traffic outside the entrance to BlackRock headquarters ahead of a key climate summit in New York City. Justine CalmaAn officer binds a protester’s hands behind their back.

“If Blackrock doesn’t divest fossil fuels, New York City shouldn’t be doing business with them,” says Wallace Mazon, a climate campaigner with New York Communities for Change. BlackRock manages more than $50 billion in pension funds for New York City.

A man wearing an orange t-shirt and baseball cap holds a bullhorn in his hand.

“Civil disobedience. It’s not something that people do lightly,” says José González. “The problem warrants that kind of sacrifice. People putting their bodies on the line.”
Photo by Justine Calma / The Verge

With a bullhorn, González yells a roll call for groups that gathered for the demonstration. “A lot of different groups — why? Because BlackRock has its hands in everything,” González says. There are big-name environmental organizations like Greenpeace and 350.org. But there are also people calling for affordable housing and other advocates who want BlackRock to renegotiate poor countries’ debt.

“Debts should have climate clauses,” says Gaya Sriskanthan, who leads a global climate justice campaign for the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung foundation. “If a country is hit by disaster, the debt should be paused at the very least. We shouldn’t have a debt system that hooks countries into debt.”

BlackRock didn’t immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment. Demonstrators from around the world are expected to take to the streets again for a climate march through New York City on Sunday.