The bullhorns made sure everyone was aware: 12:58 p.m. was the moment for silence.
Silence? In this crowd of hundreds of thousands of people?
Official estimates vary but the most consistently reported number was more than 400,000 turned out for this, the largest march of its kind in support of action on climate change. There were bullhorns. A police helicopter ominously circling overhead. Speakers. Shouters. Crying toddlers. Even a New Orleans second-line band that did an incredible brass version of the Commodore’s “Brick House.”
The goal of silencing the crowd was to create the space for a collective voice that would follow – a massive, crowd-fueled scream aimed to draw the attention of the world’s power set, gathered for the 69th UN General Assembly. CWS staff and friends joined the effort.
“We stand in solidarity with the poor, those most affected by climate change, especially because they didn’t do anything to cause it,” CWS Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer, Jasmine Huggins, summed up quite well as she marched through the streets of New York City.
With anarchists, grandmothers, builders, trade unions, business leaders and thousands of other stripes gathering to raise their voices, our job was to stand in witness for those who couldn’t join the march. For those displaced when water supplies dried up. Others recovering from disasters of increasing frequency.
We were there to raise a voice. But then, a whistle. At 12:58 p.m., the crowds fell silent. Just like my son might do in elementary school, everyone in the crowd raised both arms to acknowledge they had heard the call. And hundreds of thousands of people who gathered to have their voices heard, fell silent.
Absolute stillness in the city that never sleeps.
And then, just as quickly as it fell, the eruption began. It’s an effect I will never forget – hearing the rolling echo of voices blocks away echo between buildings, inviting us to join in the call for change.
Lets hope those who need to hear it, listen.
Matt Hackworth is the Director of Marketing and Communications at CWS.